call Texas home. After having lived in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, Hamilton settled in Houston two years ago. “They’re great cities, but [people there] have an appearance of wealth, not an attainment of wealth,” says the 36-year-old professional who works in business development at a local nonprofit. “I really wanted to focus on attainment.”
Nearly half of Houston’s black residents own homes. Hamilton achieved her goal of homeownership last year when she purchased a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house for roughly $135,000, slightly above the city’s median home value of $123,400. Houston is also more affordable to live in than most places. It wasn’t a surprise to find that our survey respondents awarded Houston high marks for its quality of life and cost of living. Houston’s cost of living index is well below the national average and the best among our top 10 cities. The cost of living is an important factor for this mother of a 13-year-old daughter, Javan. The additional discretionary income in Hamilton’s paycheck allows her to save for Javan’s college education and her own retirement.
While there’s still some debate over Houston’s public school system, following media reports and claims by some educators that school officials falsified dropout rates, its adult population seems to be well-educated. The city’s percentage of black high school graduates is currently reported at 84.1%, and the percentage of black college graduates stands at 21.1%, both above the national average.
Hamilton also enjoys the same entertainment found in other major metropolitan cities. “Last night I saw Sidney Poitier. Last year I saw John Legend and Maya Angelou,” she recounts. “The same things that I could do in New York [can be found] in Houston, but I can actually afford them here.”
What initially drew Richard Mondibo Kelsey to Raleigh-Durham in 1992 to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine was its quality of life and access to a low-cost education. “A lot of my colleagues from college were here attending graduate and professional school,” says Kelsey, speaking of his fellow Morehouse alums. Over the years, however, he’s discovered other reasons to embrace the region.
The 38-year-old professional has since transitioned out of medicine and into corporate America. Now, he’s employed as a senior account manager for Boston Scientific. However, his wife, Dwan, 36, took advantage of a robust healthcare industry. The Duke University graduate, who received her master’s degree in nursing, is an adult nurse-practitioner for long-term care facilities.
For the Kelseys and other residents, opportunities abound. For one, Raleigh-Durham is located in an area known as Research Triangle, considered the nation’s largest research park and home to more than 150 corporate, academic, and government agencies. Recent job growth is up 3.4%, the highest of all the cities on BE’s list.
A big draw is a highly educated population. Of BE’s Top Cities, Raleigh-Durham boasts the second highest percentage of black college graduates at 26.8%. Duke, UNC, and North Carolina Central University, a historically black college, are included on BE’s