The American Institute for Economic Research ranked Ann Arbor as the best small metro college destination on its 2017 list of top U.S. college destinations, released Wednesday morning. This ranking evaluates college metro areas based on their quality of life, economic climate and student demographics. The rating system is also broken down into large metros, midsize metros, small metros and towns.

According to the AIER website, quality of life and demographics played a larger role than economic climate in this year’s top rankings on the AIER College Destination Index.

To measure quality of life, AIER researchers looked at the presence of art, entertainment venues and restaurants, as well as commuter use of public transit, walking, biking and other alternatives to cars.

“Another characteristic of a great city is its abundance of ‘third places,’ that is, places that are neither work nor home, where people can gather,” the AIER website states. “These spaces may be parks and plazas or bars and pubs.”

Researchers at AIER analyze the economic climate of a destination by looking at youth unemployment rates, labor force participation of the working-age population, presence of workers in STEM fields and rent.

AIER researchers selected Ann Arbor as the top small metro due to the substantial number of graduates living in the area and the high level of diversity and affordable homes. The researchers claim these features attract many younger residents.

“(Ann Arbor) unsurprisingly has the highest percentage of college graduates in our Small Metro category, along with relatively high diversity, many restaurant and entertainment options, and good public transportation access,” the website states. “Ann Arbor offers lower rents than coastal cities with similar amenities.”

The University of Michigan itself has been listed in many college rankings in the past year, including being ranked as the number one public university in the country by the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education, the world’s number one public college ranking by the global education company Quacquarelli Symonds and 27th nationally among all colleges and universities in 2017 in the U.S. News and World Report annual ranking.

Tallahassee, Fla., and Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C., took the second and third rankings, respectively, on the site’s small metros rankings.

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