Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cleveland Rocks? Not So Much.

Fosco loves city rankings. He could look at a different list of city rankings every day (10 Pinkest Cities! 10 Worst Smelling Chinatowns! 10 Itchiest!). So naturally, he can't resist's ranking of the Ten Most Miserable Cities in the US.

But what do they mean by "miserable"? Here is the methodology:

We compiled our rankings by looking at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., which meant those with a population of at least 378,000. We ranked those metros on nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.
Of course, there are aspects of this method that we could disagree with (are income taxes really a good proxy for misery? Don't taxes often provide important, life-improving social services?). Even so, the resulting list does seem to be pretty face valid--after all, I think most people could name Detroit, Buffalo, Flint, and Cleveland as miserable, miserable places.

Here's the top ten:

10. St Louis
9. Miami
8. Buffalo
7. Detroit
6. Flint, MI
5. Modesto, CA
4. Cleveland
3. Chicago
2. Memphis
1. Stockton, CA

Fosco has visited seven of these cities and he can heartily agree with all of them, except Chicago. Chicago is something of a surprise, because it's actually a pretty great city. However, the weather is cold. And most Chicagoans have a punishing commute. And the Cubs suck SO MUCH ALWAYS. And corruption... well, we know a little more about that than we might like.

If you're not a Californian, you might be surprised to see two CA cities on the list. But here's what you need to understand: just as California is divided along a horizontal axis into NorCal (good) and SoCal (bad), the state can also be divided vertically into the Coast (good) and the Central Valley (bad). The Coast contains places like San Francisco, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. It's people are well-educated, attractive, and tolerant (for the most part). The Central Valley is like a little taste of Oklahoma. It contains cities like Stockton and Modesto. There is no reason to ever venture into the Central Valley. Ever.

You know what makes me sad? I'm sad that South Bend, Indiana is too small to be eligible for the list. Because, well, I think I know where it would place...

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