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Forbes' Bogus City Listings: Hardest Places to Get By

18 April 2009 5 Comments

Every so often, Forbes creates a new list of cities: America’s Most Miserable Cities, America’s Fastest Dying Cities, ect. They do this because, consultants tell them that online readers like lists. Also, then their magazine gets press in each city’s newspaper.

Not surprisingly, Rust Belt cities usually aren’t portrayed too favorably.

Cleveland was featured as the magazine’s #4 most miserable city in January, behind Chicago (?!?), in what was one of Forbes’ biggest stretches. The reasons for Cleveland’s misery? High annual snowfall and the possibility that Lebron James might leave the Cavs. Very scientific.

The article mentioned that Denver, Colorado gets more annual snowfall, but it was nowhere on the list. Also, missing were desert cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas that would pretty much be uninhabitable to human life without air-conditioning and also are environmentally unsustainable . So, according to Forbes, snow in and of itself is a bad thing, while 100-plus temperatures are good. I’m sorry, I don’t get that, but I know a lot of people feel that way.

Anyway, this new article seems a little more plausible. It combines unemployment rates with cost of living. Number 1 “Hardest City to Get By in?” Providence, Rhode Island. Buffalo is listed as number 4 and Detroit makes number 8. Also on the list: New York, Los Angeles and Tampa.

Congratulations to Forbes for pointing out that it’s difficult to get by in Detroit right now. Who knew?

Does any one remember the study that was done a few years back that rated quality of life highest nationally in Cleveland and Pittsburgh? We talked about this in my political science class is a discussion of statistics. The point of the lecture was, depending on what you choose as your measurement tools, you can make statistics say anything.

So what traits made Cleveland and Pittsburgh desirable from this study’s perspective? Low cost of living. Quality of educational institutions, healthcare resources and cultural institutions. Pretty reasonable stuff.

We’ve talked about the desirability of cities in my economics class. When we do this, we operate under the theory that all cities are equally desirable. The theory is this: if one city is more desirable than the next, people would leave their city for the superior one. This trend is mitigated by rising rent prices in the superior city until the cities are equally desirable.

Forbes mentions this in their latest article:

From the article: “There’s no doubt that for the residents of these areas, it feels as though there’s very little good on the horizon. But there is: Cost of living is expected to decrease in many cities where prices were highly inflated during the economic boom. ”