City to Watch: Madison, Wisconsin


Madison, Wisconsin is one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in the United States. It made number three in Livability’s ranking for most desirable places to live. The history of this city and its consequent evolution gives us a glimpse of how it rose to become one of the best places to live.

Madison started out as a small village in 1836. It remained small in size until 1856 when it began its gradual transformation. In the 1840s, it was made up of under 50 residences, three grocers, a steam powered lumber mill and two retail stores. The majority of the landscape was forested wilderness. It gained incorporation in 1846. In the 1850s it gained a city charter and officially became a city in the eyes of the state in 1856.

Soon, the railroad came through the region and brought transportation and commerce. Economic opportunities began to appear. Roads were built, settlers began to flood into the area and businesses were established. The city was now on the move. German, English and Norse settlers began to populate the area.

Current life in Madison, WI

Madison has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a small village. It is now one of the most sought after places to live in the state and in the nation. It boasts thriving businesses, low unemployment rates and quality public education just to name a few things. Here is a closer look at the things that make Madison, WI such a special place to be.

Cost of Housing

The average price of a single family residence in Madison, WI is $217,800 and the median home price is twenty percent higher than the national average with lower numbers of occupants in each home. The figures are 2.2 on average. The higher cost reflects the value of homes in this city, which is about twenty eight percent higher than State averages. The year over appreciation rate is just over seven percent which shows that homes values are on the rise, which is a good sign for the city’s economic health. Forty eight percent of the homes in the area are owner occupied which means that people are settling here and making their homes in Madison. The remainder of homes are occupied by renters at just over fifty one percent.

Employment and Income levels

The unemployment rate in Madison is slightly over four percent which is twenty seven percent lower than the national average. This is a strong indicator that business is thriving in the area and that jobs are in good supply for the local residents. This in itself is an attractive feature which raises the livability scores considerably. The income per capita averages $31,659 which is eleven percent higher than national averages and the median household income is $53,933, coming in at one percent higher.

An interesting statistic shows that the median household income for owner occupied home residents is $83,892 which is significantly higher than the cumulative average. With a lower percentage of home owners versus renters, it shows that Madison is a city that generates revenues based on home rentals.

The high poverty rate of just over nineteen percent is above national averages and it indicates that people are willing to make a sacrifice to live in this area even if it isn’t within their current financial means. With low unemployment rates, it shows that some residents may be underemployed or working for low wages versus those owning homes who have far higher income levels. Just under half of the residents appear to be from affluent backgrounds.

Cost of living

The cost of living in Madison is eight percent higher than state averages. It rests at an index of 106 on the scale. The index is based upon cumulative averages weighting housing at thirty percent, with goods and services at thirty three percent, groceries at thirteen percent, health care at five percent, utilities at ten percent and transportation at nine percent. This shows that it is a little more expensive to live in Madison because of the various amenities offered.


The public education system is very good in Madison. Test scores are six percent higher than national averages with fifty six public schools in the area, twenty three private schools and fourteen post secondary schools. The student to teacher ratio is a remarkable eleven to one which is nearly unheard of. Fifty five percent of the residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher with ninety two percent of the adult population achieving at least a high school diploma. This shows a significant value placed on education within the community.


Madison, WI is safer than thirty percent of the cities in the United States. Residents have a one in thirty two chance of becoming a victim of a crime. Year over year, the number of crimes committed in Madison has lowered by two percent. Safety is a top concern for many people who are looking for the best place to live, particularly those who are raising families.

Final thoughts

Madison, WI has all of the attributes that are desirable when searching for the best place to settle. It features a population that is well employed, thriving businesses and available housing. While home ownership is a little higher in this area, along with the cost of living, the people who call it home believe that it is worth the few percentage points for all of the amazing benefits of calling it home. Safety, quality education and a higher than average household income are all compensation.

From the evidence that we’ve collected, it is obvious that Madison has come from humble beginnings over a century ago and risen to some pretty spectacular heights. A more in depth look at the city and its inner workings offers support for the claim that this city is well on its way. We believe that if Madison stays on its current trajectory it could rise even higher than its current placement as the third best place to live in the United States. Madison, Wisconsin is one of the most up and coming cities and it is definitely one to keep your eye on.


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