The city of St. Paul grabbed the 17th spot on a list of the 50 state capitals ranked by livability, a survey released Monday by New York financial planning tech firm SmartAsset found.

The designation, which improved from No. 26 a year ago, comes as St. Paul officials and civic boosters have launched initiatives to enhance safety and cleanliness, increase downtown apartment options and help homeless people find supportive housing.

The city and many large employers have also focused on events this summer to draw people downtown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including outdoor concerts, ballgames, farmers markets and food events.

St. Paul placed behind the Texas capital city of Austin, and ahead of Lansing, Mich., in the rankings, which were based on SmartAsset's comparative study of employment, education, affordability and livability.

The top three most livable city capitals were Madison, Wis.; Pierre, S.D.; and Lincoln, Neb. Midwestern cities claimed the most spots in the top 10.

To evaluate each capital city, SmartAsset examined Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Data, unemployment rates, housing costs, cost of living indexes, federal crime records, graduation rates and changes in income over a five year period. It also counted the number of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in each city.

SmartAsset rated each state capitol on 10 categories on a scale of 0 to 100.

St. Paul scored a 46.81 for employment and education; 44.55 on affordability and 67.12 for livability to create an overall score of 52.83.

To compare, top-ranked Madison, Wis., scored an overall 80.10 after earning a perfect score of 100 for livability and a 90.10 for education and employment.

"This listing confirms that Saint Paul is a city with momentum," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said in an e-mailed statement. "Ensuring local families can access these opportunities is critical to our shared future."

Joe Spencer, president of the St. Paul Downtown Alliance, added: "Everything we do from fun events and activations to our clean and safe program to supporting businesses returning to work is aimed at creating a safe, fun environment for everyone who lives, works and plays in downtown Saint Paul.

"This recognition is yet another indicator that our city is thriving and has a special, strong culture."