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Reports names Brookline and Cambridge two of the best places to live in America

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People jogging in Brookline's Coolidge Corner neighborhood.
A report by Niche.com ranked Brookline as the 17th best place to live in the country.. Lane Turner/Globe staff/File 2020

Cambridge is the second-best U.S. city to live in, and Brookline the 17th best place overall, according to Niche’s 2022 rankings of the “Best Places to Live in America,” released Monday.  

Three of the five best places to live in the country overall, according to the Pittsburgh-based neighborhood-and-school ratings site, are in its home state of Pennsylvania. Chesterbrook, Pa., a dense suburb of Philadelphia with a median monthly rent of $1,832 and a median home value of $323,000, took the top spot for the third consecutive year.

Another suburb of Philly, Penn Wynne (median rent: $1,416; median home value: $366,000), ranked third, and Houserville, a neighborhood near Penn State University (median rent: $1,257; median home value: $225,700), placed fourth overall.  

Downtown Santa Monica, Calif., where the median rent is $2,166 and the median home value is $2,000,001, ranked as Niche’s second best place to live in the country, and Cottonwood Creek South (median rent: $2,050; median home value: $329,500), a neighborhood near the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, Texas, rounded out the top five. 

The highest-placing Boston-area community on the overall list was Brookline, at No. 17, where the median rent is $2,268 and the median home value is $933,200. (If those figures seem lower than current asking rents, that’s because Niche uses American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census. which includes, say, tenants who have lived in the same apartment for the past five years without a big rent hike.)

Cambridge (median rent: $2,221; median home value: $768,300) took the No. 2 spot on Niche’s list of the Best Cities to Live in America. The historic home of Harvard University stands in rather stark contrast to Niche’s No. 1 city, The Woodlands (median rent: $1,566; median home value: $374,200) — a planned city outside Houston founded roughly three and a half centuries after Cambridge that leans conservative politically.  

Chicago suburb Naperville, Ill. (median rent: $1,516; median home value: $416,700), Washington neighbor Arlington, Va. (median rent: $1,970; median home value: $705,400), and Kansas City suburb Overland Park, Kan. (median rent: $1,164; median home value: $276,100), rounded out the top five cities. 

Niche bases its community rankings on public school ratings, crime, affordability, economic opportunity, neighborhood diversity, walkability, and other factors, and updates them annually using data pulled from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Centers for Disease Control, among other sources — including resident reviews from its own website. 

But like any ranking that attempts to quantify something so inherently subjective as the best places to live, the methodology can be a little squishy. Niche assigns numerical scores to subjective data, such as user reviews, applies a proprietary weighting system to all the standardized data points, and then grades every place on a curve relative to all other locations, where a B is the median grade. 

Niche then adjusts how certain factors are weighted — such as housing affordability or public school systems — to generate dozens more rankings, such as the best places to buy a home or the best places to raise a family. 

Brookline ranked No. 10 on Niche’s “Best Suburbs to Live In,” and Wayland (Median home value: $711,500) landed at No. 23. Chesterbrook and Penn Wynne took the No. 1 and 2 spots, while fellow Philly suburb Ardmore, Pa. (median rent: $1,415; median home value: $355,400) took No. 3. Los Alamos, N.M. (median rent: $1,042; median home value: $308,100), and Carmel, Ind. (median rent: $1,207; median home value: $333,200), rounded out the top five suburbs in the United States.

The Boston area claimed four of Niche’s top 100 ZIP codes in the country. Lexington’s 02420 ranked No. 23, Brookline’s 02446 was No. 38, and Cambridge’s 02139 and 02138 were No. 26 and No. 50, respectively. 

As for Niche’s Best Places to Live in the Boston area, Brookline topped the list, Wayland placed fourth, and three Cambridge neighborhoods rounded out the top five: The Port (also known as Area Four) ranked No. 2, Cambridgeport No. 3, and Mid-Cambridge No. 5. 

That Cambridge trifecta ranked 15th, 16th, and 17th, respectively, in the national neighborhood rankings, while Newton’s Oak Hill nabbed 29th in the United States. The Peabody area of Cambridge, also known as Area Nine, ranked 35th nationally.

Below are Niche’s 2022 Best Places to Live in America:

  1. Chesterbrook, Pa.
  2. Santa Monica City Center, Calif.
  3. Penn Wynne, Pa. 
  4. Houserville, Pa.
  5. Cottonwood Creek South, Texas

And the Best Cities to Live in America:

  1. The Woodlands, Texas
  2. Cambridge
  3. Naperville, Ill.
  4. Arlington, Va.
  5. Overland Park, Kan. 

Jon Gorey blogs about homes at HouseandHammer.com. Send comments to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jongorey. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeHomes and Boston.com on Facebook.