Oklahoma City, Okla.
Unemployment rate: 4.9%
Walk score: 42
P/I ratio: 2.18
Education Quality Index score: 68.58
The median existing home price of $129,300 is the lowest offered by the American Dream cities, the city itself is basically a giant oil field, the livestock never stop coming and Tinker Air Force Base and the Department of Transportation's aeronautical center will keep jobs here for a good, long time. Combine that with a deep run by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA playoffs and you have one happy metro area.
As a state capital and home to several universities, Oklahoma City's always pretty well protected from economic downturns. Having such large employers as Devon Energy (DVN - Get Report), Chesapeake Energy (CHK - Get Report), Sonic Drive-In (SONC - Get Report) and Bank of Oklahoma (BOKF - Get Report) only adds to that invulnerability, as does one of the lowest corporate tax burdens in the nation. Oklahoma City doesn't impose a corporate tax and the state's levy holds at 6%, according to the Tax Foundation. Personal income tax, meanwhile, smiles on climbers after the state did away with its two highest tax brackets in 2007 and capped its income tax at 5.5%.
But what do residents get to spend all that extra money on? For the 64% of the city that lives in car-dependent areas, the first answer's a vehicle. It's not that the city lacks a bus system, an Amtrak link and big public spaces including the Myriad Botanical Garden (with its I.M. Pei-designed Crystal Bridge), Oklahoma Zoo and Botanical Garden or Will Rogers Gardens. It's just that they can be really far apart -- and give the city the lowest Walk Score of any of the featured cities.Residents have plenty of other options for that spare change, though, as museums including the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, various theater and live music venues, steakhouses and other restaurants are scattered throughout the city. Once kids enter the picture, Oklahoma City's American Dream starts to fade a bit. Oklahoma City's schools finished second to last on the list, but not for lack of effort. Great schools such as Brink Junior High School, Classen Middle School and High School of Advanced Studies and Dove Science Academy exist, but in a city of 132 elementary schools, 63 middle schools and 42 high schools, there just aren't enough of them.