Two of Philadelphia's bigger burbs got mentions in Money Magazine's annually perplexing exercise titled "Best Places to Live."

If that seems disappointing, know this: The fault lies not in ourselves. It's a very limited list.

Overall, Bensalem, ranked at No. 43, was the only area municipality to make Money's Top 50, which was led by not-exactly-famous McKinney, Texas; Maple Grove, Minn.; and Carmel, Ind., in that order.

Money lauded Bensalem's "access to stunning state parks" and such leisure options as concerts at the TD Bank Amphitheater, gambling and racing at the Parx Casino and Racetrack, and shooting at the Philadelphia Gun Club, noting "the local job market benefits from the presence of Fortune 1000 company Charming Shoppes as well as Ibanez Guitars and Tama Drums."

Montgomery County's Lower Merion, with a median family income of $155,5193, finished high in a pair of categories, landing at No. 2 for "Best places to be rich and single" (behind Brookline, Mass.) and No. 5 for "Top Earning Towns (with Bethesda, Md. at No. 1). Lower Merion is "great for singles looking for an artsy date," according a summation that noted the Main Line Art Center and the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

Otherwise, forget it. In six other categories, each listing 10 to 15 places, Philly was shut out. "Best Big City Bargains," "Best Places to Find a New Job," "Youngest Places," "Best Places to Walk or Bike,"  and "Where You Wish You'd Bought" failed to note anywhere in the tri-state area.

Feeling snubbed? Confused?

Perhaps you recall that Chester County's West Goshen landed at No. 10 last year, or remember how Moorestown was No. 1 overall in 2005, or Nether Providence being ninth in 2007.

It's not like those towns changed dramatically.

The explanation: "Best Places to Live" is nowhere close to a consistent, comprehensive search.

This year, as in other recent even-numbered years, only "small cities" were considered. Only communities with 50,000 to 300,000 people qualified. It says so in smaller print.

That's not a lot of places. Out of more than 40,000 municipalities in America, according to U.S. Census data, only 781 were eligible this year, according to Money.

In Southeastern Pennsylvania, there are only about five, including Abington, Upper Darby and Bristol Township.

Every other year, the pool is towns with 10,000 to 50,000 residents. That's why West Goshen makes the Top 10 one year, then is nowhere to be found.

More than 50 million people live in the nation's 63 biggest cities, but they'll never see their home towns on the main "Best Places" list. Not even if it's San Diego or Honolulu.

The nation has more than 16,000 towns with fewer than 10,000 people, and they, too, are abitrarily dismissed year after year.

More than 150 such towns lie in the four suburban counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and they all get ignored. Chadds Ford, Swarthmore, New Hope -- to Money they don't count. Ditto for the likes of Lambertville and Cape May across the river.

Perhaps even more puzzling is that affluence eliminates some very nice places.

That could explain why Lower Merion failed to make the Top 50. Can't have a median family income that's 2.1 times the average for the state.

It's like a "Best Movies to Watch" list that has only dramas this year, only comedies the next, with blockbusters, small-budget flicks and Oscar winners never eligible.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com. Follow @petemucha on Twitter.