Have you ever read one of those “Best places to live” lists? I have fantasized about living in one of those towns/cities since I was a kid. Living in one of them never seemed attainable to me because they were either too far from my home, too cold or too expensive. What does it mean to live in one of those places?” What criteria is used to determine this?
I looked at 3 websites to compare their criteria and methodology.
Livability examines quality of life in over 2,000 cities in the US and have been doing so for the past 28 years. Their main focus is to help cities attract and retain residents and businesses. They narrow down the top cities by looking at 4 main criteria: Level, Inclusive, Variety and Engagement.
Level describes whether there is a level playing field for everyone to succeed (education, jobs and technology).
Inclusive measures a cities diversity. This includes age, race, income and other factors.
Variety describes flexibility for residents to choose schools, hospitals, housing, parks, farmers markets and transportation.
And finally, Engagement looks at whether residents are making the most out of all the opportunities available. This includes voting, local meeting attendance and joining community organizations.
US News & World Report is a weekly news magazine that was founded in 1933. They generate several “Best of” lists and are considered an authority on them. Their Best Places to Live list looks at the Job Market, Value Index, Quality of Life, Desirability and Net Migration.
The Job Market Index measures the strength of a cities job market.
The Value Index measures whether the average resident of each city can afford to live within their means, in other words a Cost of Living index.
The Quality of Life Index measures how satisfied residents are with their daily lives in each ranked metro area. It quantifies the crime rate, quality and availability of health care, quality of education, residents level of happiness and the average daily commuting time.
The Desirability Index measures whether or not people want to live in a given metro area. To determine this, they asked people from all over the country where they’d prefer to live.
And Net Migration measures whether people are moving to or away from each of the metro areas. It represents whether or not a metro area is actually attracting new residents.
Niche describes themselves as “…a website that helps you discover the schools and neighborhoods that are right for you.” Niche uses similar criteria as Livability and US News but they include some specific factors as well.
There is a Higher Education Rate which is the percentage of residents who have received a bachelor’s degree or higher. The Nightlife Grade measures the access to bars, restaurants, theaters, and other attractions. The Outdoor Activities Grade quantifies weather, air quality, and access to parks and other recreational opportunities. And the Weather Grade is based on number of sunny days, precipitation, and average temperatures in an area.
Based on these three lists here is my Top 10 Places to Live.
Ann Arbor, MI: The home of the Michigan Wolverines. A safe, highly educated town with a diversified economy that is growing in technology and health care. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to take advantage of as well.
Arlington, VA: A suburb of the nation’s capital boasts excellent education, parks & rec, access to a major city and is among the most diverse cities in the US (140 countries represented).
Austin TX: Home to the famous South by Southwest festival, is known for being the “Live Music Capital of the World”. There is no state income tax and low sales taxes. Even though Texas is known as a driving state, there have been major improvements to Austin’s public transportation.
Fort Collins, CO: Residents enjoy 300 sunny days a year, excellent schools and an array of recreational activities. Businesses such as Anheuser-Busch, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies loom large in the city.
Madison, WI: Madison is widely known as a top college town, food capital and music. Affordable housing, technology investors and good public schools are other reasons this annually makes top livability lists.
Naperville, IL: The suburb of Chicago is a safe community, has eight college and university campuses, 130 parks, four sports complexes and an award-winning Edward Hospital (its largest employer).
Overland Park, KS: A highly-educated community that has many companies based there, including Sprint, the city’s largest employer. The top soccer city in the US boasts many parks, 4 lakes and 6 sports facilities.
Portland, ME: Boasts more restaurants per capita than any other US city. Plenty of arts, culture and outdoor recreation keep the residents entertained. Portlanders are also among the healthiest due to all the outdoor activities. And did I mention the fresh lobster and seafood???
Rochester, MN: Having one of the top medical clinics has to be a major perk. The Mayo Clinic will soon be expanding and could add an additional 40,000 jobs. The University of Minnesota will also expand to here to anticipating an influx of young people. This city will be experiencing major growth and diversity in the next few years.
Seattle, WA: The Emerald City has an abundance of farmers markets and some are even open year-round. There is plenty of outdoor recreation and live music (the birthplace of grunge) to satisfy almost anyone’s taste. And no, it does not rain every day.
Do you currently live in one of these towns? Is your town deserving? Are you planning on moving to one of these towns?
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