Bloomberg News has a good piece on those idiotic “best places to live” articles that pop up constantly on the internet. You know, the ones that try to tell you the place to go is Oregon, Iowa or Aroostook County in Maine. Patrick Clark calls BS:
Earlier this month, real estate brokerage Redfin published a list of America’s most bicycle-friendly cities, slotting Minneapolis first. That should seem a little ridiculous to anyone who has spent a winter in the North Star metropolis. Then again, hilliness and the number of bike commuters were part of the study’s methodology. The number of days cold enough to freeze snot to your upper lip was not.
Let’s not single out Redfin, though. A quick scan of “best cities” lists offers plenty that don’t pass the sniff test. There’s the list of best places to launch a startup that touts San Diego above noted tech economies like San Francisco and Seattle. There are the 10 most livable cities for the 50-and-over crowd, as ranked by AARP, none of which are south of Washington, D.C.—despite decades’ worth of evidence that older Americans prefer shuffleboard to curling1.
The point isn’t to excoriate the list makers, who are, after all, simply responding to demand from people like you and me (and virtually every news outlet, including Bloomberg). Producing lists requires researchers to lean on subjectively selected methodology, which may overlook things like soul-shaking cold, or otherwise miss the forest for the trees. If high housing costs make San Francisco less livable, why do so many people want to live there?
Yeah! And if the crime rate is falling, why are so many people in jail? (The famous “Fox Butterfield effect.”)
I mention those other lists because there’s a better list out today, the Census Bureau’s most recent city-level population estimates, based on a very straightforward methodology: These are the places where people are actually moving. That doesn’t mean you should move to these places, too. But if they’re good enough for others, you might want to give them a look.
Unsurprisingly, most of them are in Texas.