All the experts seem to agree: large cities are smarter, sexier, and definitely more productive than small cities, and much more so than rural areas where ignorant and bigoted people chew tobacco, have sex with their relatives and play the banjo. The reason why big cities are more productive is thought to be that they create more business interaction and competition. They also attract more intelligent people with their schools and universities. On top of this they provide diversity and all the cultural attractions that come with that making them the clearly best places to live. Right? Maybe not.
Gallup recently indexed different states in America after according to their future livability. And the result shows that rural states rock. All the top five, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska, and North Dakota are what you’d have to call rural. Largest city is Denver with just above 600K inhabitants. The states with the 10 biggest cities are not one of them in the top ten in livability. Not a single one.
So how can this be? I imagine a lot of the big city hype is just hype. Businesses compete and interact with each other all over the world these days so the geographical location means less than it may have done before the internet. While intelligent people go to university they don’t necessarily stay. And large cities attract other, less intelligent people too. Like criminals.
Large cities create diversity for sure, but that’s not always a good thing. When different social, ethnic, and religious groups live close together you don’t merely have a good exchange but also conflicts, violence, and riots. And in a small community there is probably more social support than in the city where people are coming and going and in doing so becoming strangers to each other.
This is not to say that rural areas are inherently attractive to live in. The bottom five states on the Gallup list are in fact rural – Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Nevada (well semi-rural), and Arkansas. So being rural or small town does not guarantee a state a high livability. Maybe it’s just a necessary but not sufficient condition?
If we compare the top and bottom five we can see some obvious differences. Besides all being rural the top five are on the average much less densely populated, the have less diversity and they have more people of European ancestry. The latter relates to the economy because it’s obvious that ethnic groups differ in how financially successful they are. Black people make the least money so that kind of diversity will affect the economy more than say that of California which is based more on Asians, Hispanics, and Jews. That said, California (containing three of Americas ten biggest cities) is only average on the list so their nonblack diversity is no hit either.
It’s also a fact that the top five have a significantly cooler climate than the bottom five. Not sure how that would affect things, maybe less flooding and hurricanes?
But whatever the reasons, it seems the big cities aren’t so big anymore. What do you think makes a community a good place to live in?