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Q: Best Places to Live in Midwest and South ( with paramaters) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Best Places to Live in Midwest and South ( with paramaters)
Category: Family and Home > Home
Asked by: johnster-ga
List Price: $150.00
Posted: 16 Mar 2005 20:35 PST
Expires: 15 Apr 2005 21:35 PDT
Question ID: 495939
What is the best city to live in in the Midwest and/or South with the
following conditions or parameters?

Cities with at least 500k population.
Cities that are gay friendly.
Cities with the over-all cost of living including housing and taxes
Cities with pleasant climates
Cities that are relatively pollution-free
Cities that rank as the fittest cities
Cities with a good repuation for culture and the arts

I've been leaning towards the Tampa-St. Pete area or Sarasota,
Florida, but recently, I've heard positive things about Columbus,
Ohio, among other areas.
Columbus has been referred to as a gay-friendly city and ranks lower
on the cost of living scales. In addition, I have quite a few family
members in Ohio.

However, I would like you to comare various areas in the Midwest,
Mid-Atlantic and Southern states to provide more information on a
future and , possibly last move.

Thank you.

Please ask any questions you may have and request clarifications

Subject: Re: Best Places to Live in Midwest and South ( with paramaters)
Answered By: vercingatorix-ga on 17 Mar 2005 08:27 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
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
( 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 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.


Request for Answer Clarification by johnster-ga on 17 Mar 2005 09:58 PST
Hey there,

You did a very good job but I would like to clarify one point. I
forgot to add to the population parameter, 500k metro population. For
example, I didn't see Atlanta, Tampa-St. Pete, Richmond, Miami,
Raleigh-Durham, Baltimore, etc.

Can you go back and look for the metro population stats and then
include those cities in your chart.

Thanks very much

A nice bonus awaits you.


Clarification of Answer by vercingatorix-ga on 17 Mar 2005 12:44 PST
I can indeed take metro areas into account. I can't do it today, as
the rest of my time is booked. However, I will try to get the
additional stats to you Friday.


P.S. - I left the Washington-Baltimore area out of the mix because it
wasn't what I would consider the South. But now that I know you're
interested, I'll get it in the mix.

Clarification of Answer by vercingatorix-ga on 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
metro areas:

Austin-Round Rock, TX
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA
Orlando, FL
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
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA
Orlando, FL

All have decent cultural opportunities, attractive climates, and a
high gay population.

I updated the spreadsheet at


Clarification of Answer by vercingatorix-ga on 17 Mar 2005 20:54 PST
I do a lot of research on statistical data of all kinds. Business and
personal stats of all kinds, science, and health care also interest
me. I specialize in financial and investment-related research.

I do not do genealogical research and I don't like trying to track
down old quotations or songs.

If you need some research, post a question, and add a clarification to
this question. I get an e-mail notification when you ask for

johnster-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $75.00
You did a great job. 

Thanks for the job.

What are the other subjects you research?


Subject: Re: Best Places to Live in Midwest and South ( with paramaters)
From: tubinturtle-ga on 18 Mar 2005 11:00 PST
I'm not sure if you've made a definite decision yet, but I have to
agree with V about Austin as the best fit with one exception. Austin
has a serious traffic problem with morning and evening rush hours, so
if you plan to commute during regular rush hour time frames, you may
find the traffic overwhelming on Interstate Hwy. 35, which is the main
thoroughfare through Austin. I would like to suggest San Marcos,
Texas, which is 20 minutes south of Austin, and would give you the
best of both cities. San Marcos gives you the privacy of a small town
living with big city access to Austin only 20 minutes away (non-rush
hour drive time). Here is the link to the San Marcos Chamber, check it
out  You can email them for all kinds of
information. San Marcos is also home to Texas State University and has
a fairly sizable gay population and San Marcos should meet all your
other criteria, however it may not meet your 500K population
requirement. I live in Dallas, and don't recommend it because it's too
plastic and shallow in my opinion. San Marcos has freindly, down to
earth real people and it just feels good being there. You will also
only be 1 hour away from San Antonio from San Marcos. As I said
before, I live in Dallas, but I commute back and forth to Canyon Lake,
Texas because I have a Tubing Business on the Guadalupe River called
River Sports Tubes. You can checkout my Website at:  From the photos on my site you can see some
of the surrounding beauty in the Texas Hill Country, which provides
tons of outdoor activities, which tubing happens to be a favorite in
the area and is only 20 minutes from San Marcos. There is way too much
information about San Marcos and the surrounding Texas Hill Country to
cover in an email, but I strongly recommend you look further into San
Marcos if you have not made a final decision yet. Good Luck, hope you
find the best city for your needs. Tubin Turtle

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