Tuesday, July 14, 2009

CNN's Best Places to Live

I was just looking at CNN's list of the Top 100 Places to Live for 2009. As often when looking at American cities, I loved some of the names. This is one of the most fun parts of driving around the country: checking out the place names on the road map. Here's a few from the Top 100:

Papillion, NE - Great place for butterflies, maybe?

Peachtree City, GA - Can we coin the word "statetriotic" for this one?

Superior, CO - Good thing they made this list.

Highland Heights, OH - We get it. It's high.

Lenexa, KS - Shouldn't that be a pharmaceutical?

Twinsburg, OH - I was trying to imagine the backstory on this and it turned out to be far more interesting than I would have thought. Founded by twins, and now consists of twin cities as well!

And so on - there are many more.

But here's the weird thing. CNN apparently has a "best places to live" database, and here are their criteria for membership:
CNNMoney's Best Places database of 1,800-plus U.S. cities includes towns with populations 8,500 to 50,000 with satisfactory education and crime scores, where income is below 200% of the state median, and that are no more than 95% white – as well as cities with populations 90,000 and up.

Maybe I'm not getting this, but none of the criteria makes sense to me. Why leave out cities with populations between 50,000 and 90,000? Why would you want income to be below 200% of the state median (are there little Qatars out there with huge incomes but also huge income inequality)? And why no more than 95% white? If you want diversity to be a criterion, OK. But is a town exactly 95% white diverse? Is a town that is 100% black diverse? Seems odd.

UPDATE: Even odder, CNN tracks the racial diversity index of each city. The index is an unbiased score of diversity; I learned, for example, that the town where I live is 27.2% more diverse than the national average. Interestingly, the Best Places to Live database average diversity is over 40% below the national average. So is diversity a criterion to qualify as a "best place", or isn't it?

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