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Where You Want To Live


The Daily Beast is out with its version of the best American cities list that fits the pattern we’ve seen in the past couple of years: America’s great legacy cities like New York and Los Angeles are being trounced by up-and-coming cities in the South and Midwest.

Taking into account economic, demographic, and quality of life factors (employment growth, per capita income, unemployment rates, housing affordability, growth of the college-educated population, crowding, traffic congestion) Austin, Texas and New Orleans take the the top two spots. According to the Daily Beast, these are ideal cities because they “are places where people can enjoy the cultural amenities and attitudes of ‘progressive’ blue states but in a distinctly red-state environment of low costs, less regulation, and lower taxes.” Indeed, “building a career, buying a home and, ultimately, raising a family in relative comfort” are much more difficult in “progressive” San Francisco (No. 24), New York (No. 46), and Los Angeles (No. 51).

Here are the top 15, based 50 percent on the economy, 25 percent on quality of life, and 25 percent on demographic factors:

1     AUSTIN, TX















It’s a sign of America’s vast territory and dynamic economy that these cities are becoming more vibrant and livable as cities like Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles face serious problems. Oklahoma City may never have the art galleries of New York, and it may be a while before Salt Lake City accrues the rich cultural heritage of Chicago. But young American professionals and their families today have plenty of good options for where to put down roots and build their lives.

The relative absence of blue cities on this and other lists is telling, and ironic. Many cities shaped by blue policies are no longer hospitable to those looking for growth and opportunity; it seems only the wealthy can enjoy them. Ultimately, the kind of government that makes having children or starting a business risky life decisions is a failed government.

[Image of Jackson Square in New Orleans courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Matthew Schultz

    Isn’t Austin very liberal? Maybe I heard incorrectly.

    • Bruno_Behrend

      It’s liberal for Texas.

      • wigwag

        Actually, Austin’s last Republican Mayor was elected in 1977. In 1986, expressing disgust with the Republican Party, she became an independent.

        • Matthew Schultz

          Which addresses the degree to which Austin is liberal how? Or were you just looking to score some rhetorical points?

          • wigwag

            No need to take my word for it. Instead, perhaps you will take Tom DeLay’s. He said,

            “I was tried in the most liberal county in the state of Texas, indeed in the United States.”

            His trial took place in Austin which is located in Travis County, Texas.
            Ann Richards cut her political teeth in the Austin area, but perhaps you don’t think Governor Richards was liberal either.
            Barack Obama won Austin by extremely large margins both times he ran for president and during the Texas Democratic Primary in 2008, Obama beat Hillary Clinton in Austin. But perhaps you don’t think that is a sign of liberalism either.
            Austin may not be as liberal as Berkeley, CA but you have to be uninformed to suggest that it is not liberal.

          • Matthew Schultz

            But perhaps you don’t think that is a sign of liberalism either.

            I never said it wasn’t liberal, nor was I even suggesting it. I was wondering as to the degree of its liberalness, and I even said I thought it was very liberal. Quit shadowboxing and take a moment to actually understand what someone is saying before responding. Otherwise it makes you look like a troll.

  • DiaKrieg

    Climate clearly was not a factor in this study. New Orleans? Still below sea level, last I looked. Oklahoma City? Didn’t a tornado just rip through there — again? Minneapolis? Brrrrr.

    As to the point about these being red cities —
    um, Washington, D.C? The bluest city of all. The worst schools in the nation. Rich only because of luxurious habits of fat politicians and fatter lobbyists.

  • Thirdsyphon

    These lists have been coming out for decades, and if they meant anything at all, or had any predictive value whatsoever, New York City would by now be a crumbling, half-abandoned disaster to rival Detroit.
    Obviously, that’s not what happened, in large part because for all these years young people have kept surging and clamoring and fighting with every fiber of their being to come here and live here and stay here and thrive here, from every corner of the globe.
    Why do so many young people dream of living in a city that’s so famous for being unliveable? Why do so few of them, proportionately, dream of living in Raleigh?

    • Matthew Schultz

      I moved to New York City for college (NYU), so I understand the draw of the city. People are willing to make enormous quality of life sacrifices for a real chance at power and prestige.

      • Thirdsyphon

        That’s a piece of it, but not a full explanation. New York’s not a culturally-desolate wasteland that young people come to only because they’re looking for power and prestige (although that’s an apt description of why I moved to Washington D.C.) New York draws people with all sorts of reasons for coming there. . . or even no reason that they can describe.

        • Matthew Schultz

          At NYU I met a rather large number of young people and I was able to ask them why they attended the school. The almost universal answer (articulated in various ways) was that they wanted to be part of the most prestigious and advanced business and artistic venues in the world.

          Admittedly my sample size is small, but I think given the demographic (young college students who moved out of state to attend) and the overall culture of the university (which researches and markets to undergraduate desires like any other institution), I think it’s more representative than not, especially as I’ve kept in touch with friends, family and other professionals in the city over the years.

          • Bruno_Behrend

            I visited NY for 2 days about 8 years ago, and spent some time there on business since then.

            For sane people, it is unlivible, but for the minority of mankind that enjoy constant buzz, cost, and that rats-in-a-maze bustle, is suppose it would be a magnet.

            I kid you not, NYC does make Chicago look like a cow town, and that is a compliment to Chicago and a knock on NY.

            Cities like that make one mentally ill. Adjusting to the pace is not conducive to moral or mental health.


        • Corlyss

          If you want to stay who you are, you stay where you are. If you want to reinvent yourself, you come to New York.

        • Doug

          The secret reason that people live in NYC is that the food is so good. Even the cheap food is excellent compared to anywhere else in the US, and most of the rest of the world for that matter.

      • Corlyss

        That must explain how Washington, D.C., made the list. Part of quality of life has to include expense of living there as well as how screwed up the city government is. I lived in the region for 48 years, and I agree the cultural offerings, it’s recession-proof nature, and the stimulation coming from an extremely diverse and ever-changing population of transients are enormous pluses. But none of that kept me in the region when I had a chance to get out. Traffic is abominable. Nothing can get done easily or quickly because 6+ separate political jurisdictions have to agree on everything. The city government is completely incompetent because it’s only motivation is to stick it to the Republicans who make the city’s budget a constant war-zone. The police department is just another gang of crooks in prettier uniforms than those of the other street gangs.

        • Thirdsyphon

          I agree with all your points about Washington except for the quality of its cultural offerings. I’m a film buff, and DC had literally no good venues to see anything that wasn’t in a multiplex.

          • Corlyss

            Ahhhh. You must have arrived after Circle Theater on Dupont Circle and Georgetown Theater on M Street in Georgetown folded. They were repertory movie theaters, running retrospectives of classics film festivals. Now I guess all you have is whatever the KenCen runs at AFI.

  • wigwag

    The list is stupid and citing it as evidence of anything is even dumber. Forbes magazine consistently ranks Pittsburgh at or near the top of America’s most livible cities list; Pittsburgh didn’t even make the Daily Beast list. Neither did another incredibly livible city; Indianapolis.

    Using a Daily Beast list as evidence of your thesis that America’s “blue” cities are falling behind convinces nobody but the ignorant, the deluded or the credulous.

  • Bruno_Behrend

    NOLA!? It’s a pit. It smells bad. It’s French

  • Jeff Jones

    Where is bpuharic to tell us that the standard of living and education are substandard in southern conservative states?

    I’m almost disappointed….almost

  • wigwag

    “The relative absence of blue cities on this and other lists is telling, and ironic.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    No, what’s ironic is that Professor Mead failed to notice that they are practically all blue cities. Of the 16 cities on the list (Minneapolis and St. Paul are different cities) 15 of them have Democratic Mayors (only Oaklahoma City is an exception) and the same 15 have Democratic majorities in the municipal legislatures. Practically all of these “most livible cities” are one party cities; Democrats are almost always in power.

    If Professor Mead believes that the Daily Beast list is so earth shattering in its consequences, is he willing to acknowledge that the success of these cities must surely be the result, at least in part, that they are almost always controlled by Democrats?

    I doubt it. Once Professor Mead is presented with facts that contradict the narrative he has fallen in love with, his usual modus operendi is to move on to some other evidence he finds in the lame stream press.

    I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. The one thing we can count on is that whatever it is, as he takes aim at tge “blue” model, he will almost surely end up shooting himself in the foot.

    • Matthew Schultz

      Policy doesn’t always match party. Some Democrats govern like conservatives and some Republicans govern like liberals. Pointing to which party was in power isn’t sophisticated enough to overturn Mead, and certainly isn’t sufficient for your triumphalist, supercilious disposition.

      • wigwag

        Except that practically every one of the cities on the list, and certainly all 15 currently led by Democratic Mayors, are governed in the classically liberal manner (what Mead would call “blue”) that cities not on the list (like Chicago and New York) are governed. Almost all of them have unionized work forces, all of them have school teachers who have contracts negotiated by NEA or AFT affiliates, their municipal workers all have defined benefit plans and their workers all have civil service protections.

        I have news for you, Matthew, you are as misinformed as Prodessor Mead, if you think Salt Lake City or Austin are governed by Democrats who act like Republicans.

        Most of the cities on the list that Professor Mead gushes about are emblematic of “blue” cities on steroids.

        I’m sorry, but like Professor Mead, you are seriously misinformed.

        • Matthew Schultz

          You make a series of unsubstantiated claims about my level of knowledge without any evidence and without even acknowledging my original argument. Should I take your silence as a tacit admission that your appeal to raw party affiliation was fallacious?

          Your list comprises necessary, yet insufficient, conditions for “classically liberal” governing. The entrenched power structures of unions or benefit schemes hardly tells us what kinds of legislation these political leaders, who come and go regardless of the background of unions, made, and whether they would qualify as decidedly liberal, conservative, or some mix. As someone who has spent his entire life in and near major cities and followed their policy decisions (Boston, New York, London, Atlanta) as well as others, I’ll take my own counsel as to what counts as “misinformed.”

          Why don’t you cut the judgment and arrogance and try to understand what someone is suggesting before rushing to judgment. You sound just like the kind of ignorant, partisan hack you want to paint Mead as.

          • wigwag

            I never said that Mead is an ignorant, partisan hack; what I suggested is that he wrote an ignorant, partisan post. He did. Defend an ignorant post if you want to, but you’ve added not a single fact to the debate. All you’ve done is talk about your own personal experience.

            That’s fine, but its not in the least informative. If you have anything substantive to say, you should say it.
            Otherwise, your meandering line of thought is as uninformative as Professor Mead’s shallow post.

          • Matthew Schultz

            It’s fairly obvious that your goal is to discredit Mead’s project as partisan and ignorant, not just his post.

            All you’ve done is make broad assertions. Hardly grounds to complain that I’ve haven’t said anything “substantive.”

            You refuse to acknowledge that party affiliation does not really tell us whether the politicians making relevant policy govern in liberal or conservative ways, which is far more instructive as to what causes the rise and fall of cities than the letter that comes after their name. (And you think Mead is shallow!) That’s all my original comment was addressing; it wasn’t an attempt to defend the original post as much as taking issue with your response to it. But apparently trying to get you to follow a discussion as simple as this and drop unsubstantiated personal characterizations is “meandering.” You sound just like the millennials in my generation, using personal attacks, broad generalizations and indolent dismissals for any fact or idea that might challenge allegiance to a political tribe or any issue that requires a modicum of thought beyond political talking points that reinforce the inevitability of liberalism.

            So let’s get back to where we left off: you think the presence of unions and traditionally liberal social arrangements mean those cities have been governed in a primarily “blue” manner. I’ll just repeat what I said last time: that seems much less relevant than to how politicians have specific acted in these cities over the years. I can think of several pieces of legislation and/or speeches that promoted in all but name conservative or libertarian economic initiatives, none of which depended on or were substantially influenced by the presence of, say, unions. It’s also instructive to see how much (or little) Democratic political officials have largely left intact unfettered free market principles and other conservative ideas.

            Or maybe you just don’t realize how Mead tends to use the term “blue.” How long have you followed his work?

            But here’s your millennial TL;DR: You’d have to do a fairly significant analysis to claim what you want to claim.

  • wigwag

    If you’re not worried about being murdered, having your car stolen or having your house burgled, feel free to move to one of the cities that Professor Mead and the Daily Beast are gushing about. If your personal safety matters to you, you would be better off moving to New York City. New York City has a violent crime rate that is lower than most of the cities on the Daily Beast list and it has a lower murder rate than 12 of the 15 cities on the list. New York City’s murder rate, (6.3 per 100,000) is significantly lower than Oklahoma City’s (9.9 per hundred thousand) and dramatically lower than New Orleans (57.6 per hundred thousand). Washington, D.C. has one of the highest crime rates in the United States
    By the way, surveys like the idiotic one published by the Daily Beast frequently cite the affordability of housing as one of the criteria for what makes a city livable. Doing this is laughable. Rents and real estate prices are enormously high in places like New York and San Francisco because people are dying to live there. Rents and real estate prices are much cheaper in places like Raleigh, NC because far fewer people want to live there.

    Rents and real estate prices are set by supply and demand. New York has limited rent control and the uninformed suggest that this artificially limits supply. This is true to a modest extent but the effect of rent control on real estate prices in New York is limited. New construction is never subject to rent control so controlled rents do not act as a brake on bringing new supply on board.

    In places like New York and San Francisco its the demand side that’s unbelievable; people are literally fighting to move in.

    You don’t need a ridiculous list like the Daily Beast list to find America’s most livable cities, all you have to do is search for cities with high rents and condo prices. Places like San Francisco, New York City, Boston, etc. The higher the rents, the more “livable” people believe the city to be.

    • Doug

      1) One of the major impacts of rent regulation in NYC Is to freeze the market. No one moves if they have a rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment, and that’s 40% of the market. So old people stay in apartments too big for them and young people are frozen out of the market for older, cheaper housing. In any event, most economists think that average housing costs would be lower in NYC if all rents were deregulated.
      2) It’s true that NYC is fairly safe these days. You should thank Rudy Giuliani for that, and also Michael Bloomberg for continuing Giuliani’s policies. Alas, the ACLU and the institutional left seem determined to return NYC to the Dinkins era with their pending lawsuit against the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policies. I lived in NYC during the Dinkins era, when you couldn’t walk from Columbus Avenue to Broadway in the 70s without taking your life in your hands, and that’s where the City is headed if Judge Scheindlin does what everyone expects.

  • wigwag

    It is also interesting to reflect on the demographics of the cities that the Daily Beast classifies as America’s most livable cities. Many but not all of them have majority or near majority minority populations (with minorities classified as black, Latino Native American or Asian).

    Here are the numbers: Austin (49% percent minority), New Orleans (63% minority), Houston (74 percent minority), Oklahoma City (39 percent minority), Raleigh (38% minority), Nashville (33% minority), Richmond (59 minority), Washington, D.C. (64% minority), San Antonio (72% minority), Minneapolis, (36% minority), St. Paul (27% minority), Dallas (70% minority), Seattle (38% minority), Salt Lake City (30% minority), Charlotte (52% minority), Columbus (38% minority).

    All the figures are taken from Wikipedia which relied on 2010 census data.

    Based on my quick perusal, it appears that every single city on the list gave the majority of its votes to Barack Obama both in 2012 and 2008 rather than John McCain or Mitt Romney with one exception; Oklahoma City. I didn’t check that carefully so I could be wrong. Given that these cities have voted Democratic in the past two presidential elections and given that practically all of them have Democratic mayors and municipal legislatures, it would seem that Professor Mead is severely mistaken when he says,

    “The relative absence of blue cities on this and other lists is telling, and ironic.”

    Actually, they are all “blue” cities.
    I haven’t checked so I can’ t be sure, but I am willing to bet that the fecundity of blacks and Latinos living in these cities exceeds that of the white residents who reside in these cities. That suggests to me that they are likely to become both more Democratic over time and more “blue” over time.
    Perhaps Professor Mead needs to think about this subject in a little greater depth.

  • Tom

    I think several people are missing this part: “the cultural amenities and attitudes of ‘progressive’ blue states…distinctly red-state environment of low costs, less regulation, and lower taxes.”
    In other words: All of these cities are liberal. However, most of them are in states where the liberals can’t go dark blue, with the accompanying rise in cost of living, because the rest of the state won’t let them.

    • wigwag

      Yes he did say that, but he also said,

      “The relative absence of blue cities on this and other lists is telling, and ironic.”
      They are almost all “blue cities.” What is telling and ironic is Professor Mead’s carelessness.

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