Better Living through Expectation Management

Rate Your Community

According to a recent Pew Research Trust survey, 84% of the people surveyed who do not live in Cincinnati would not like to live here. Cincinnati is marginally more popular than Cleveland and Detroit. But, only 23% of the respondents even claim cities as “their favorite community type.”

From the full report, some statements that reference Cincinnati:

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project finds that nearly half (46%) of the public would rather live in a different type of community from the one they’re living in now—a sentiment that is most prevalent among city dwellers. When asked about specific metropolitan areas where they would like to live, respondents rank Denver, San Diego and Seattle at the top of a list of 30 cities, and Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati at the bottom.

The five least popular big cities—Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Minneapolis—are all in the Midwest.

When it comes to the nation’s 30 biggest metropolitan areas, Americans have a wide range of likes and dislikes. Denver, San Diego and Seattle top the list of favorites, while Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati anchor the bottom.

Rust Belt cities of the Midwest and East receive the lowest ratings. Overwhelming majorities of Americans would prefer not to live in Detroit (90%), Cleveland (88%) or Cincinnati (84%). Nearly as many give a thumbs down to Minneapolis (82%), Kansas City (81%) and Pittsburgh (80%); fewer than one-in-five would like to make their home in any of these cities.

College graduates seemingly can’t wait to move to Denver, San Diego or Boston. More than half of adults with a college degree or more say they would like to live in these cities. But Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati hold no such attraction, ranking at the bottom of desirable places to live for better educated Americans—and for less well educated adults as well.

If you care about Cincinnati, read the synopsis of the survey findings, or the full report [PDF]. Take the brief community satisfaction quiz [my results are above — I must have been in a generous mood]. If you care about urban communities, read about the mixed response to cities in general, versus what people say they want out of their community. I wonder if the over all mismatch recorded in these results wasn’t due to the timing of the survey in the first half of October, when people were first beginning to seriously panic about the economy. Might the results be a product of our general malaise?

I’m a bit surprised that Chicago didn’t rank higher, as it definitely seems to be on the up and up. I would also expect Minneapolis to rank higher than it did [barely above Cincinnati, or 4th from the bottom]. And where is Portland, OR, that hipster mecca and posterchild for all that is good about urban life? Ha, it’s barely a step above Sacramento, a.k.a. The Sac, a.k.a. California’s armpit. So, how much stock should you put into these results? Maybe 2,200 people wasn’t a large enough polling sample, or maybe October really wasn’t the best time for big questions.

From my own perspective, I rather like living in a place that’s a bit off the map. It gives me some breathing room to live and make artifacts that feel genuine to my own experiences here. There is no compelling myth of Cincinnati, which enables creative people like myself to construct our own myths. I rather like being able to have this kind of ownership over this city.

So, Cincinnati is not an aspirational place, just a normal city in which normal people live. I’ve moved around quite a bit over the years, but I only ever aspired to live in one city — Boston. It was a goal, and I achieved it. But, my four years there left me broke, bored and bitter. So much for aspirations.

Check out the NYT’s own interpretation of the results. Urban Cincy and Cincinnati Imports have also weighed in on the findings.

Sure, reading over these survey results is a bit of an eye-opener, but I’m not entirely surprised, and not entirely disappointed either.


9 thoughts on “Better Living through Expectation Management

  1. My community rating was also higher than the vast majority of Americans. I’ve lived in several other cities and meticulously examine/explore the cities I visit. With that said, I’m pretty happy living in Cincinnati.

  2. I got a 12% so somehow you give more love to Cincy than I do. I think we have it close to excellent as far as affordability, jobs and cultural attractions. The climate could be better, and the sprawling choke of ugliness that surrounds most American cities definitely has hurt Cincy, and sure I wouldn’t mind living near a beach or near Harvard and MIT.

  3. I think my “satisfaction” with Cincinnati, and maybe yours as well, has a lot to do with expectations and the ability to make oneself happy almost wherever.

    A friend of mine, who spent a couple of years in Boston, claims that it’s a great city for 18 or 48 year olds, and I think that’s apt. It’s a really easy place to visit, and I think it would be a fairly accessible, nonthreatening place to go to college, but I don’t think it’s all that livable for “normal” people. So many things that are interesting or desirable about Boston are just not very accessible to residents.

  4. i totally agree re: your feeling of having ownership over cincinnati. i feel like there is so much room for creativity in terms of the community and the social dynamics here and i am trying to take full advantage of that. i think it is rare to have a city that is so large comparatively and yet still has so much opportunity for people to create new spaces for themselves in it.

    i moved to new york for similar reasons as you moved to boston and ended up feeling the same way. it was way too expensive for me and i was never able to really feel that i had a place there.

  5. I can see how living in a smaller city can be more satisfying than in a large city. But, then how is it that the Midwest is still bleeding residents, especially younger ones? Why doesn’t a significant number of people feel this way?

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