Denver Mile-High on Favorite City List; Detroit Fares Worst

February 4, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Hispanic | Youth & Gen X

More than two-fifths (43%) of the US population would like to live in Denver or its surrounding metropolitan area, making the Mile-High City the favorite city among Americans, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project.

Other desirable cities are San Diego and Seattle, which ranked #2 and #3 in terms of favorability. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit came in last on the list of 30 big cities. Only 8% of Americans indicated any interest in living in or around the Motor City.


American Wanderlust

In addition to ranking cities, the research found that nearly half (46%) of the US public would rather live in a different type of community than the one they’re living in now – a sentiment that is most prevalent among city dwellers who say they would like to live somewhere with less people – but also common among residents of suburbs, small towns and rural areas.


Despite the fact that many Americans would like to live elsewhere if they could, most are generally satisfied with where they live now. More than 80% rate their current communities as “excellent,” “very good” or “good.” People who have moved at least once (63%) and those who have lived in the same place all their lives (37%) are equally content with their current home.

Demographic & Ideealogical Patterns

Several notable demographic and ideological patterns emerge in the survey responses, Pew found. For example, most young urbanites consider cities most desirable, while most middle-aged urbanites would like to live elsewhere. Seven-in-ten rural men are content where they are, compared with just half of rural women. Most rural conservatives and urbal liberals are happy where they are, while urban conservatives are not.

Demographics and political views help shape people’s taste for specific cities,? Pew said, citing specific demographic data:

  • Many more young adults than older adults are drawn to New York and Los Angeles.
  • More men than women want to live in Las Vegas.
  • Well-to-do adults are twice as likely as the less affluent to want to live in Boston.
  • Republicans are more likely to want to live in Phoenix, while Democrats are more likely to want to live in San Francisco.

Regarding geography, seven of the public’s 10 most popular big cities – Denver, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento -? are in the West, and the other three – Orlando, Tampa and San Antonio – are in the South. The five least popular big cities – Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Minneapolis – are all in the Midwest. Americans’ preferences for these locations validate what government data indicate about the nation’s migration patterns: Americans are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest in favor of the South and the West, Pew said.

Additional survey findings:

  • Americans are diverse in their views about their ideal community type: 30% say they would most like to live in a small town, 25% in a suburb, 23% in a city and 21% in a rural area.
  • By a ratio of more than three-to-one, Americans prefer living where the pace of life is slow, not fast. A similarly lopsided majority prefer a place where neighbors know each other well to one where neighbors don’t generally know each other’s business.
  • By about two-to-one, they prefer to live in a hot-weather place over a cold-weather place.
  • On the food-and-drink front, a slight plurality would rather live in a place with more McDonald’s (43%) than one with more Starbucks (35%).
  • About seven-in-ten Whites rate their current community as “excellent” or “very good”; only about half of Hispanics and 40% of Blacks say the same. Rural and suburban residents rate their communities better than do residents of cities and small towns.
  • People who live in a city – as well as people who want to live in a city – are more open than others to the idea of living with neighbors who are of different races. They are also more open to living among immigrants.
  • When it comes to community involvement, there is no difference among those who live in cities, suburbs, small towns or rural areas. About half of the residents in each place say they are involved, and half say they aren’t.

About the survey: The survey was conducted by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 2,260 adults, conducted Oct. 3-19, 2008. An earlier report, based on other questions from the same survey, found that nearly one-in-four adults (23%) say the place they consider home isn’t where they are living now. That report also cited Census Bureau data indicating that Americans are changing residences less often than they used to: Only 11.9% moved between 2007 and 2008, the lowest percentage since the government began tracking this measure in the late 1940s.


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