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Why do people choose to live where they do? With a country as big and diverse as the United States is it possible that most people can agree on the best place to live? Money Magazine and CNN/Money (2005) just published their Best Places to Live 2005 study. According to Money, Moorsetown, New Jersey is the best place to live in the whole country. Money says Moorestown has, “a Main Street made for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post”. Moorestown also has, “Top schools”, “Good Jobs” and “Nice homes at reasonable prices”. Moorestown sounds like a great place to live but, would everyone put it at the top of there list?
Money started their survey with 40,000 places (not necessarily official cities or towns) across the United States. Money based their survey on data collected from the US Census Board, the Bureau of Labor, the IRS, and other sources. Money only considered places with more than 14,000 people, above-median household income, and population growth and real estate appreciation over the past 5 years. These filters narrowed their list to 1,231 places. Money then rated each place based on criteria in eight areas. These areas were: affordable housing; plentiful leisure activities; plentiful cultural options; low pollution; low crime rate; low auto insurance; short commute time; and access to quality health care. The Money study also focused on areas considered most important for people raising families. Money gave economic, education, and safety factors twice the weight they gave to other social and leisure factors. Finally, Money visited the top places and interviewed residents to make the final ranking.
The issue of the “best place to live” caught my attention because the town where I live, Tolland, Connecticut, was ranked 29th on the Money Magazine list. The town proudly displays this recognition on their Home Page.
Tolland is 29th in the Top 100 Best Places to Live in the U.S.
(Town of Tolland, n.d.).
The local weekly newspaper (Ciparelli, 2005) wrote a front page story about the honor of Tolland being 29th on the list. Tolland is a small town in north-eastern Connecticut about 25 miles from Hartford, 75 miles from Boston, and 120 miles from New York City. Tolland has a population of about 15,000 people spread over 40 square miles. Why did Tolland make the list? According to Ciparelli, Tolland scored well in several key criteria used by Money Magazine.
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"Should We All Move To Moorsetown?." 123HelpMe.com. 25 Jun 2019
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I thought about why I picked Tolland when I moved here 16 years ago. First, because my job was going to be located in Hartford, my options were immediately narrowed to the commuting area around that city. Public transportation was very limited so I determined that a 30 minute commute, or 30 miles, was as far from the city as I was willing to go. My wife and I wanted a home we could afford on a large lot in a rural setting with good schools. Many of the other criteria on Money’s list were irrelevant to us. The average temperature of Tolland might have been interesting but if my job was going to be in Hartford what could I do about the temperature? For others considering Tolland, its rural nature and the lack of closely-spaced neighborhoods may not appeal to them the way it appealed to my wife and me.
The premise of Money’s rankings seems to be that people can select a place to live independent of factors like their job or career, their family, and their financial situation. I argue that, for most people raising a family, the decision about where to live is, first and foremost, a personal decision based on these individual factors. Real people must make trade-offs between financial, family, career and other factors. Given that our population is as diverse as our geography it is unlikely that one place fits all. If it is very important to someone that their children grow up close to granny and grandpa their choices of a location to live are immediately limited by that criteria. If someone is transferred by their company to a specific location their options are again limited. The real world is not a simple list of generic criteria to be scored and totaled.
Money’s list is certainly not unique. Consumer Reports Top Picks 2005 (April 2005) tells us which cars are best. Many other magazines come up with their top 10 diets, top 20 books, best movies of all time, best athletes of the century, and just about any other “best of” you can think of. Best of lists obviously sell magazines, or there wouldn’t be so many of them. Our society seems to be fascinated by (maybe even obsessed with) these efforts to rank everything. If the best were really the best for everyone then we would all live in the same place, send out kids to the same college, drive the same car, own the same TV, and go to see the same movie. Individual tastes, preferences, upbringings, and other factors influence our decisions.
I have to admit that I enjoy reading about these best of lists as much as anyone. They can be interesting and informative. Magazine lists can help you narrow down your choices or better develop your selection criteria when trying to make a decision or purchase. Money’s list and its decision criteria are certainly useful for someone faced with a move or looking to relocate. In the end the decision about where to live is a personal one. The decision can be helped and guided by the criteria used by Money but each individual needs to factor in their personal situation and priorities to come up with their own version of Moorestown, NJ.
Ciparelli, J. (2005, July 19). Tolland ranks in top 30 among ‘Best Places to Live’ in U.S. Reminder Community News-Vernon Edition, p. 1.
Money Magazine – CNN/Money. (August 2005). Best Places to Live 2005. No. 1: Moorsetown, NJ. Retrieved on July 20, 2005, from http://money.cnn.com/best/bplive/
Town of Tolland ,CT, The. (n.d.). Town of Tolland, CT. Home Page. Retrieved on August5, 2005 from http://www.tolland.org/index.html
Consumer Union of U.S., Inc. (April 2005). Top Picks 2005: The best models in 9 categories. Consumer Reports.org. Retrieved on August 5, 2005 from http://www.consumerreports.org/main/content/display_report.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=575735&bmUID=1123341181059