I started with population.
There are 19 cities in the Midwest and South that were home to at
least 500,000 people in 2000, the date of the last census
(http://www.demographia.com/db-uscity98.htm). I included California
cities because they can technically be considered the South,
particularly if you?re using weather as a cut-off more than straight
geography. If you?re not partial to the left coast, please ignore Los
Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.
For cost of living, I used Yahoo! Real Estate city profiles such as
I?ve compared the Cost of Living Index for each city to the U.S.
What constitutes culture is a matter of debate. I included three
possible tools for you. The Yahoo! profiles include a Culture Index. I
don?t know exactly what that entails, but based on the relative scores
for cities I know well, I have to assume it gives high points for such
things as museums, theater, music, and restaurants, and possibly
A Forbes survey on the best cities for singles also rated cities
according to the quality of their culture and nightlife. Forbes rated
40 cities, ranking them in order, with 1 the best rating possible. Of
the 19 cities we are considering, Forbes ranked 15 of them, counting
Dallas and Fort Worth as one city. I included the Forbes culture and
nightlife ranks for your perusal as well, leaving blanks for the
unranked cities. I separated Dallas and Fort Worth in my spreadsheet
but assigned them the same rank based on the Forbes data.
I used air quality as a proxy for pollution. The Yahoo! reports
included an air-quality index. All of the cities I looked at were
considerably lower than the U.S. average of 44. That makes sense, as
we?re concentrating on large metropolitan areas, which will always
have a higher concentration of industry and automobile pollution. The
dirtiest cities are ranked 1.
Regarding climate, I also turned to the Yahoo! reports. The reports
contained the average winter high and low, and the average summer high
and low. I took the average of the highs and lows for winter and
summer to get a basic idea of the average temperature. (Yes, you
statisticians out there, the average of the average high and the
average low is not the average of the entire sample. But it should be
within spitting difference of that average.) To measure the extremity
of temperature, I subtracted the low temperature from the high
As a proxy for fitness, I used the fitness survey published in Men?s
Health magazine. This high-profile survey ranks the 25 fittest and
fattest cities in the country. I?ve included in my spreadsheet whether
the cities we?re considering made either list. The survey considered
14 categories, including the number of gyms, health-food stores, bars,
and fast-food restaurants, park acreage, home use of televisions,
participation in sports, etc.
To determine the ?gay-friendliness? of the city, I turned to the Gay
Index. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed this index
based on the percentage of gay residents in the city. This information
is based on the 1990 Census, so the core data is not current. However,
this is the most widely referenced Gay Index available, and the
percentages have probably not changed much in most cities. I included
both the actual Gay Index statistic and each city?s ranking among the
total of 50 ranked.
The average ranking is 1.32, and the only cities on the list
substantially higher than the average are San Francisco, Austin, San
Diego, and Los Angeles. Three of those cities (all but Austin) are
very expensive places to live.
The spreadsheet with all the data I?ve discussed is posted at
http://wecanwrite.com/Demographics.xls. However, you wanted a
recommendation. So here it is:
First off, I love Chicago. I don?t mind the cold, and as far as
across-the-board appeal, it?s the best city on the list from where I?m
standing. My second choice would be Columbus, which is a fine
community with a lot to offer. But those are my opinions, and I want
to lead you to cities that meet your specs. I?m assuming you don?t
like cold weather or extremely hot weather. I?m also assuming you want
a city that is better than average in most of the criteria you listed.
I did not use air quality as a criteria for elimination, because that
would have eliminated all of the largest cities outright. The lowest
ranking for air quality still encompasses a broad range of pollution
levels. I also ignored the fitness rating because it is the most
arbitrary, and all of the cities listed have more than enough outlets
for those who wish to remain physically fit.
Methodology ? I started by eliminating all cities with a cost of
living more than 10% above the national average. Then I eliminated
cities with a Culture Index less than 20% higher than the U.S. average
and all cities with an average winter temperature of less than 40
degrees. After that, I knocked out all cities with a Gay Index less
than the U.S. average.
Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Houston and Phoenix are below the
average for the Gay Index, but by a very small amount.
Austin seems to be the best fit. I?ve heard nothing but good stories
about that city, though I will admit I?ve never been there. If you
don?t mind the heat, Phoenix is probably the next best choice. It?s an
excellent city with a lot to offer, and it is just a couple of points
off the Gay Index average.
Clarification of Answer by
17 Mar 2005 14:47 PST
I got to the job sooner than expected:
The new, expanded list of metro areas is taken from census data at
There are 61 definable metropolitan areas containing more than 500,000
people in the South and Midwest.
I forgot to provide a link for the Gay Index
and the Forbes survey
With the larger group of metro areas, there are more regions that have
no Gay Index number, are not listed on the fittest and fattest survey,
and are not featured in the Forbes survey. I had to fill in climate,
culture, and cost of living data for a couple of metro areas based on
the information from nearby areas. While the data is less complete
using the larger sample size, we can still draw some good conclusions:
Methodology ? Just as before, I started by eliminating all cities with
a cost of living more than 10% above the national average. I
eliminated cities with a Culture Index less than 25% higher than the
U.S. average and all cities with an average winter temperature of less
than 45 degrees. After that, I knocked out all cities with a Gay Index
less than the U.S. average. After that screen, I have the following
Austin-Round Rock, TX
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
Eliminate the areas with the weakest air quality, and you?re left with:
Austin-Round Rock, TX
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
All have decent cultural opportunities, attractive climates, and a
high gay population.
I updated the spreadsheet at http://wecanwrite.com/DemographicsII.xls