Opinion: Where is the Best Place to Live an Edited Life in the US?
We are great advocates of cities: They’re walkable, bikeable and have public transport for easy mobility; the average city dweller uses approximately 14% less carbon than his non-urban counterpart according to the Brooking’s Institute study; their density facilitates easy interchange of resources and vibrant cultural lives.
But to use “city” as an abstract term might not be helpful if you are looking to move somewhere where you can best live an edited life–i.e. living a life with more money, health and happiness with less space, stuff and energy. The question becomes, which city supports that life best?
We talk a lot about New York City and San Francisco, as they both are very dense, have extensive public transport systems and have vibrant cultural lives. But consider the average rent in the New York metropolitan area is $2687. San Francisco is even more at $3226.
Perhaps you want to take economist Jed Kolko’s advice and buy a home, which he claims will save around 30% in living expenses. Well consider that the median home price in Manhattan is $1.14M. Want to slum it up in a borough like Brooklyn? Median price is $582K (the borough was recently deemed the second most expensive place to live in the US behind Manhattan). San Francisco is no slouch at $705K. That’s a lot money to fork over to save money! And buying small doesn’t necessarily save you a ton. Studio rents in both cities frequently exceed $2K. If you’re a family, expect to pay $3500+ rent or $800K for even a modest apartment.
Of course, with these prices come increased economic opportunities, but there’s a paradox: There are more jobs where you can make more money, but, in most cases, you work more, with less time to enjoy the benefits of the city.
There are middle-ground cities like Chicago, Boston, Philly, Seattle and Denver that enjoy more manageable living expenses along with decent economic situations, but they also tend to be less walkable and have less developed public transport.
Then there is Main Street USA. Many claim that small business and technology will allow people to work remotely will make them the “cities” of the future. But for the most part, this is still speculative. Most jobs are still in denser areas and these areas are usually quite car-dependent.
We realize this is not a simple question. The “right” answer might depend on living situations (single, couple, family), career situations, family connections, etc.
Imperfect as the answers may be, we’d love your opinion. Do you live–or have you lived–in a place you think facilitates the edited life–a place you think allows you to do the most with the least?
Please leave us your thoughts in our comment section below. Thanks!