[For the most recent rankings, see Neighbor’s 2023 rankings]
Everyone wants good neighbors.
When you get along with the people around you and know you can count on them (and they can count on you), it creates a feeling of neighborhood solidarity, builds community, and keeps everyone safer. A recent Housing and Urban Development study showed that while neighborhood crime rates are lower in the U.S. than they’ve ever been before, strong community bonds are closely associated with safe neighborhoods where people have a sense of community well-being.
But where in the U.S. can you find the best, most friendly neighbors? And what does it actually mean to be neighborly? We wanted to find out.
We scoured the web for data about different things that we think make friendly neighbors: People looking out for each other, doing favors for one another, and just acting like good neighbors. Then, we analyzed that data to see which cities in the U.S. have the best neighbors — and are the most neighborly.
According to our data, the top 25 most neighborly cities of 2020 are:
- Augusta, Georgia
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Portland, Oregon
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Washington, D.C.
- Spokane, Washington
- Greenville, South Carolina
- Rochester, New York
- Ogden, Utah
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Seattle, Washington
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Sacramento, California
- Bridgeport, Connecticut
- Lakeland, Florida
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Denver, Colorado
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Tucson, Arizona
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Fort Myers, Florida
What makes these spots more neighborly and friendlier than all the rest? It was a combination of these factors (a more detailed methodology can be found at the end of this article):
- Charitable giving;
- “Formal volunteering,” or volunteering for organizations;
- “Informal volunteering,” or doing favors for friends, family, and neighbors;
- Community well-being, which came from a study that surveyed people on whether they felt safe, happy, and proud of their home communities.
Here are the factors that made each of our top 25 cities some of the most neighborly in the U.S.
The 25 Most Neighborly Cities in America
#1: Augusta, Georgia
We found the No. 1 most neighborly place in the U.S. to be Augusta, Georgia, and there were a lot of reasons for that.
For one, 87.5 percent of itemized tax returns filed by people living in Augusta included charitable giving. The average amount that those folks donated to charity was almost $7,000. But there’s more to being neighborly than just being charitable.
We also found that nearly 25 percent of the population has put in hours volunteering for an organization they believe in, and according to census data, almost 9 percent of people reported doing some “informal volunteering,” which includes doing favors for friends and neighbors. That’s the very definition of being neighborly!
And to top it all off, we found that 11.2 percent of workers in Augusta carpool, above the national average of 9 percent. Coworkers helping each other get to work? That’s pretty neighborly, too.
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#2: Salt Lake City, Utah
Coming in at the No. 2 spot is Salt Lake City, Utah, where charitable giving really makes the city stand out. 83.6 percent of people who filed itemized tax returns in Salt Lake gave to charity, and they gave, on average, 5.9 percent of their total income (the fourth highest amount in the entire U.S.). That comes out to an average itemized donation of $9,274.
Salt Lake’s volunteerism is nothing to sneeze at, either. 36 percent of people who live there report volunteering for organizations they love.
And when it comes to helping out their coworkers and neighbors? Salt Lake has a carpooling rate of 12 percent — higher than the national average. It’s clear that this is a city where people take being neighborly seriously.
#3: Columbia, South Carolina
Coming in third is Columbia, South Carolina, where 85 percent of itemized tax deductions included charitable giving. Folks who live in Columbia were making sizeable gifts, too — the average amount of an itemized donation was $6,324.
While formal volunteering in Columbia was pretty average, the city had a high rate of informal volunteering — 7.3 percent of its people reported that they love doing favors for friends and neighbors, which is the very definition of being neighborly, if you ask us.
#4: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
In our No. 4 city, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 12.9 percent of workers carpool, which is way above the national average of just 9 percent. In addition to that, Lancaster ranked 19th in the entire U.S. in a 2018 community wellbeing study, which showed this city is a place where people feel safe, like to live, and take pride in their community.
#5: Portland, Oregon
In Portland, Oregon, nearly a third of all people report volunteering for organizations they believe in — 31 percent, according to census data. In addition to that, 6 percent say they “informally volunteer” by doing favors for people around them, including their neighbors. Pretty neighborly, if you ask us.
#6: Minneapolis, Minnesota
In No. 6 Minneapolis, Minnesota, almost 85 percent of itemized tax returns showed some charitable giving. But where Minneapolis really shines is how much its residents volunteer — more than 37 percent of them give their time to organizations they love, one of the highest volunteer rates in the country.
#7: Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is another city where the charity of its residents landed it high in our rankings — No. 7, to be exact. 82.5 percent of itemized tax returns in D.C. include gifts to charity, and a third of residents report putting in volunteer hours to make their community better, according to census data.
#8: Spokane, Washington
No. 8 is Spokane, Washington, where a quarter of people put in formal volunteer hours, according to census data, but where 5.8 percent of people report doing “informal” volunteering, like just helping out the people in their neighborhoods.
#9: Greenville, South Carolina
What makes our No. 9 city, Greenville, South Carolina, stand out, is that 11.2 percent of workers there carpool — more than the national average of carpoolers. Add in the fact that 86.2 percent of itemized tax returns from Greenville included donations to charity, and you’ve got one neighborly city.
#10: Rochester, New York
Rounding out the top 10 most neighborly cities is Rochester, New York, where 83.3 percent of people who filed itemized tax returns reported making donations to charity. What makes Rochester even more neighborly, though, is that nearly a third of the people who live there — 32.5 percent, to be exact — report spending time volunteering.
#11: Ogden, Utah
Ogden, Utah, in our No. 11 spot, stands out for how charitable its residents are. An incredible 87 percent of itemized tax returns from Ogden residents included donations to charity, but that’s not even all — the average Ogden resident donated 6.9 percent of their income (the second highest percentage in the nation). That makes the average total charitable donations from someone living in Ogden $9,219.
#12: Jacksonville, Florida
Our No. 12 city, Jacksonville, Florida, has plenty of charitable residents — 82.9 percent of itemized tax returns included gifts to charity. But where Jacksonville really stands out is the number of people helping each other get to work — 11.5 percent of all workers there carpool. That’s well above the 9 percent national average.
#13: Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington is above average in neighborliness according to almost every one of our metrics. 80.3 percent of itemized tax returns included charitable donations, 31.3 percent of Seattle residents spend time volunteering, and 10 percent of Seattle workers carpool with friends or coworkers.
#14: Colorado Springs, Colorado
The people of Colorado certainly have a reputation for being friendly. For those in Colorado Springs, it’s a combination of their above average gifts to charity — 80.9 percent of itemized tax returns include charitable donations — and their willingness to help each other get to work — 9.7 percent of all workers in the city carpool.
#15: Sacramento, California
Like Colorado Springs just above it in the ranking, No. 15, Sacramento, California, made our most neighborly list because of charity — 84 percent of all itemized tax returns from Sac included gifts — and carpooling — 9.2 percent of the city’s workers give each other lifts to work.
#16: Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bridgeport, Connecticut, our No. 16 city, hits right at the national average for volunteerism and carpooling to work. So what sets this neighborly city apart? That would be the charity of its residents. 85.7 percent of itemized tax returns filed by Bridgeport residents include charitable gifts.
#17: Lakeland, Florida
In Lakeland, Florida, our No. 17 city, people are clearly neighborly because of how many of them are willing to give time to helping others. Census data shows that a very impressive 36 percent of Lakeland residents have volunteered their time to help out an organization and make their community better.
#18: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
What makes our No. 18 city, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so neighborly? Plenty of people in the city give to charity and 9.1 percent of them carpool — more than the national average. But what really stands out is how many people report “informal” volunteering, or doing favors for the people around them — 6.5 percent of people report doing so, according to census data.
#19: Denver, Colorado
Another Colorado city, Denver, makes our list at the No. 19 spot, for a few good reasons: An impressive 81.9 percent of itemized tax returns from Denver residents including donations to charity, and almost 30 percent of people who call Denver home report putting in volunteer hours. The Mile High City clearly also has mile-high rates of neighborliness.
#20: Grand Rapids, Michigan
What sets our No. 20 most neighborly city, Grand Rapids, Michigan, apart from so many other places in the U.S. is how many people spend time formally volunteering — according to census data, nearly a third of people in Grand Rapids do. This city also ranked 23rd in a 2018 community wellbeing study, which means people in Grand Rapids are proud of their community and happy to live there. Happy people make great neighbors, if you ask us.
#21: Tucson, Arizona
In Tucson, Arizona, our No. 21 city, nearly 85 percent of people report charitable donations on their itemized tax returns. Tucson also has a higher-than-average rate of carpooling workers: 10 percent.
#22: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
They don’t call it the “City of Brotherly Love” for nothing. People in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania make great neighbors.
For starters, 84.3 percent of people there who file itemized tax returns report giving to charity. And 26.4 percent of Philly residents report putting in volunteer hours in their community.
#23: Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina nabs our No. 23 spot by being above average in just about every category of neighborliness: 85.9 percent of itemized tax deductions include gifts for charity, 30.2 percent of residents report that they volunteer on the regular, and 9.4 percent of workers carpool to their jobs. That’s a lot of people helping people, and you love to see it.
#24: Honolulu, Hawaii
In Honolulu, Hawaii, our No. 24 most neighborly city, an incredible number of people help each other get to work — 14.6 percent of workers there carpool. In addition to that, Honolulu ranked 24th in the entire nation for its sense of community wellbeing, which, according to a 2018 study, measures how much people like where they live and take pride in their home communities.
#25: Fort Myers, Florida
Rounding out our list at No. 25 is Fort Myers, Florida, where helping out others definitely seems to be a priority for residents. 81 percent of itemized tax returns from Fort Myers residents included charitable gifts, and 10.3 percent of workers carpool together — more than the national average.
Here’s how we determined which cities are the most neighborly in America.
We started with a list of the 100 largest metro areas in the country, and from there, it was a combination of surveys, data points, and other factors.
We felt that informal volunteering (i.e. doing favors for neighbors) captured the spirit of being neighborly better than the other data points included, so that data was weighted more than the others. Here’s how everything was weighted:
- Informal volunteering: 3
- Charitable giving: 1.5
- Community well-being: 1.5
- Formal volunteering: 1
- Carpooling: 1
Which Cities Are Most Charitable?
One of the biggest data points we looked at was charitable giving. Using IRS data compiled by Magnify Money, we were able to calculate the percentage of itemized tax returns filed by residents in each community that included gifts to charity. Being charitable is a big part of being neighborly, so this data was a definite factor.
Which Cities Are Most Selfless?
Another big part of being a good neighbor is helping people out, so we turned to U.S. Census Bureau data from the report on Volunteering and Civic Engagement. We looked at two different data points from census surveys:
- The percentage of people in a place who did “formal” volunteering, or worked for organizations in their communities
- The percentage of people in a place who reported “informal” volunteering, which can be as simple as doing favors for a friend or neighbor. It’s the very definition of being neighborly, so we had to include it.
In addition to volunteering data, we looked at rates of workers in each city who help each other get to work. We factored in data about people who carpool collected as part of the American Community Survey, and included the percentage of Americans in each city who carpool to work as a ranking factor.
Which Cities Are Thriving Communities?
- How much people like where they live
- Whether people feel safe where they live
- How much people take pride in their home community
That study created a ranking of the cities in the U.S. with the highest levels of community wellbeing, and several of our most neighborly cities ranked in the top 20 for community health.
Were All U.S. Cities Considered?
Using these data points means we were constrained by which cities the data was available for — we didn’t have all these data points for every city in the U.S. We compiled our data for the top 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., but for some of them, we still weren’t able to find all our data points. If just a data point or two was missing, we subbed in the national average. But it sadly wasn’t possible to analyze this data for every city and town in America. Some of the smaller ones that slipped under our radar may very well be the true most neighborly.