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Affordable, safe, and family-friendly

Getty Images; photo illustration by Amber Siegel

Affordable, safe, and family-friendly

It's time for BusinessWeek's annual ranking of the best places to raise your kids.

As we did last year, we teamed up with OnBoard Informatics, a New York-based provider of real estate analysis, to select one town and two runners-up for each of the 50 states. The selections were limited to towns that have at least 45,000 residents and a median income of between $40,000 and $125,000. Vermont was given a pass on the population restrictions because none of its cities would otherwise have made the cut.

We used the same criteria to rank the towns, but we shifted the weights slightly to come up with what we consider better results. The data we used included school performance, number of schools, household expenditures, crime rates, air quality, job growth, family income, museums, parks, theaters, other amenities, and diversity.

Affordability, safety*, and school test scores were given the greatest weight.

Some communities made the list again this year, including Warner Robins, a military town in Georgia, and the Charlotte suburb of Rock Hill, S.C. But most of the towns we chose are new to the list. The Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, Ill., which won the nation's overall best ranking this year, is just an hour south of last year's winner, Mount Prospect, Ill.

Last year, readers reacted strongly to our list. Read this year's picks. Let the online discussion begin.

*For all slides, relative safety was measured by the "total crime risk," an index of the combined risks of rape, murder, assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, and vehicle theft. Crime scores were based on demographic and geographic analyses of crime over seven years. School performance was based on state reading and math test scores and came from Great Schools. Zoo data came from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and museum, theater, park, and recreation information came from InfoUSA. Air quality information came from the Environmental Protection Agency, household expenditures and diversity data were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, and job growth data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Source: OnBoard Informatics