Best in Texas: Brownsville, McAllen make U.S. News top 10

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An orange hue reflects on the surface of a resaca at Texas Southmost College (TSC) as the sun sets in Brownsville near Gateway International Bridge. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

U.S. News & World Report has ranked Brownsville and McAllen the 8th and 9th best Texas cities to live in, respectively, for 2023-2024.

The rankings are based on evaluations of 150 U.S. metro areas using data from sources such as the Census Bureau, FBI and the Department of Labor as well as the publication’s own internal sources. The data is categorized into four indexes, each weighted according to the results of a March 2023 public survey asking what are the most important considerations in choosing a place to live.

The indexes are Quality of Life, weighted at 36 percent, Value Index (23 percent), Desirability Index (22 percent) and Job Market Index (19 percent).

Brownsville scored highest in “value” with a rating of 7.7 and second highest in “quality of life” with a rating of 7. The city scored a 5 in “desirability.” Brownsville’s lowest score was a 3.5 for “job market,” though its overall rating was 5.7.

In “Best Places to Live” among the 150 U.S. metro areas evaluated, Brownsville landed in the 134th spot, though in the “Cheapest Places to Live” category the city took 15th place.

McAllen also scored highest in “value,” with a rating of 7.5, and second highest in “quality of life” with 6.3. The city was awarded a 5.2 for desirability and a 3 for job market, its lowest score.

According to U.S. News, McAllen is the 137th best place to live among the 150 U.S. metro areas, though it was not included in the “Cheapest Places to Live” results. Brownsville and McAllen are ranked, respectively, as the 114th and 117th best places to retire among the 150 metro areas.

Ahead of Brownsville and McAllen in the “Best Cities to Live In” category are Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Killeen, El Paso, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, in that order. Houston is in 10th place.

A woman walks along the trail at the McAllen Youth Sports Park on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

McAllen is described in the rankings report as a “vibrant metro area and a major center for retail, international trade, tourism and manufacturing” despite a reputation as a “mere border town.”

McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos said he hadn’t seen the U.S. News ranking but that the city is “one of the safest areas,” the economy is booming and quality of life is a high priority.

“We’re one of the fastest growing, our economy is doing fantastic, and our people are great,” he said. “You can’t find friendlier people. The cost of living is lower. Salaries are starting to go up. This area really is amazing, and I’m glad that finally we’re seeing the difference from Washington to Austin, they’re finally paying attention to us. And evidently, I guess, other people too. It really is a great area.”

Brownsville families enjoy a day at Dean Porter Park in Brownsville Tuesday afternoon, May 30, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

U.S. News notes that in Brownsville Spanish is widely spoken, with a large percentage of residents claiming Mexican heritage, and that “it’s just as easy to find authentic mole sauce as it is to find quality Texas sirloin. The Port of Brownsville, meanwhile, serves as an important trade and transportation hub while nearby Gulf beaches serve as a major attraction nearly all year round.

Brownsville City Manager Helen Ramirez welcomed the news, which doesn’t hurt economic development, and said the city made the top eight in the U.S. News rankings because it has all the necessary ingredients.

“It is privilege to be ranked within top eight best places Texas, where people across the state have recognized that our quality of life, safety, revitalization of downtown, trails, housing and family-friendly community creates an attractive place to live, work, play and be educated,” she said.