There isn't a shortage of best places to live articles and publications on the net — Livability's Top 100 Best Places to Live, AreaVibes' Best Cities in America, Coldwell-Banker's Best Places to Live. On August 18, 2014, the Tax Policy Blog of the Tax Foundation published the poorly titled work, The Real Value of $100 in Each State, in which writers Alan Cole, Lyman Stone, Richard Borean reveal the the relative buying power of $100 for each state.
On August 26, 2014, NerdWallet published a work, Best Cities for Quality of Life, which claims to reveal which cities offer better overall lifestyles than other cities. Amusingly, the NerdWallet study lists Buffalo, New York, as the sixth best city in America in which to live. Buffalo!
Let’s look at population trends for City of Buffalo and the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Peak population for the Buffalo-Niagara region happened in 1970 when population tallied to 1,349,211. By the 2010 census, the Buffalo-Niagara lost a whopping -15.8% of it’s population, falling at a yearly clip of -3.4%.
The City of Buffalo fared even worse. The 1970 population tallied to 462,768. It has since fallen a whopping -43.5% falling at an annual clip of -10.8%.
When people go, they take their bank credits with themselves. Ever lessening credit in circulation means ever declining living standard for those who stay.
Looking at the published methodology of NerdWallet reveals huge flaws. For the 100 largest American cities, those at NerdWallet equally weight these factors:
- Mean weekly hours worked
- Mean commute time to work
- Median annual rent as percentage of median income
- Percentage of residents with health insurance coverage
- Percentage of residents with income below the poverty level
- Unemployment rate of the metropolitan area, which could subsume the city
They chose mean weekly hours worked as if merely working somehow defines quality of living. Almost everyone works as a means to other ends.
They chose percentage of population with medical bills paying insurance, which they wrongly name "health insurance coverage". How does having insurance contribute to a "better overall lifestyle" the study purports?
Here are better metrics:
- number of job openings each resident at or above the average wage for Americans
- growth or decline rate of number of job openings at or above the average wage for Americans
- purchasing power each $100 perhaps for market basket consisting of a gallon of gasoline, a square foot of average rent, a pound of beef, a pound of chicken, a kilowatt of electricity, a BTU of heat
- dollar sum of net exports
- average number of degree days 10 °C (50 °F) or above
- average number of sunny days
- square footage of hired retail space each resident
- square footage of hired entertainment space each resident
- square footage of available recreational space each resident
- travel distance to a major body of water
- travel distance to a quality ski resort
- number of national parks and major state parks within a two-hour drive
- number of violent crimes each 100 residents (murder, rape, assault, armed robbery)
- number of government employees each 100 residents as a proxy for regulation
Let's face it. If you can't work, if you can work but only at low wages or if politicians confiscate a good part of your earnings, it's going to be hard to enjoy your after-hours. Likewise, if it takes too long to hit a beach, a snowboard slope or a park where you can be alone, you would be living in the middle of nowhere.