Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Places to Live in the USA

The search for the ideal place to live has been a big part of my life. I prefer a tranquil rural area with a hilly terrain, affordable housing, moderate weather and earthy women.

I've lived in scores of places in 11 states now and have yet to find heaven on earth, but I keep getting closer. Apparently, perfection is a state of mind rather than a spot on a map.

Obviously, everyone has their own reason for choosing where to live, such as economic opportunities, cost of living, political environment, quality of education, social atmosphere, recreational activities, climate, etc.

One consideration for finding the ideal place to nest might be projected life expectancy of various locations. Dr. Christopher Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study of life spans across the USA.

The longest human life spans by state are:
Hawaii – 80.0
Minnesota – 78.8
Connecticut -- 78.7
Utah – 78.7
Massachusetts – 78.4
Iowa -- 78.3
New Hampshire -- 78.3
North Dakota -- 78.3
Rhode Island – 78.3

The shortest life spans by state are:
Georgia – 75.3
Arkansas -- 75.2
Kentucky -- 75.2
Oklahoma – 75.2
Tennessee -- 75.1
West Virginia – 75.1
Alabama – 74.4
Louisiana – 74.2
Mississippi – 73.6

For some reason, southerners don't last as long as the rest of the country. That's probably because they're too busy having a good time, eating too much deep-fried possum and breathing in too many NASCAR fumes.

Hawaii may be a good place to live a long life but it's also highly vulnerable to natural disasters. A university study, recently published by Live Science, listed the largest 50 American cities from the safest to the most vulnerable to natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, flooding, etc.).

The 10 safest cities are:
1) Mesa, Ariz.
2) Milwaukee, Wis.
3) Cleveland, Ohio
4) El Paso, Tex.
5) Phoenix, Ariz.
6) Tucson, Ariz.
7) Colorado Springs, Colo.
8) Detroit, Mich.
9) Fresno, Calif.
10) Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10 most dangerous American cities when it comes to natural disasters are:
41) Tulsa, Okla.
42) Long Beach, Calif.
43) Houston, Tex.
44) Los Angeles, Calif.
45) San Jose, Calif.
46) Honolulu, Hawaii
47) San Francisco, Calif.
48) Oakland, Calif.
49) New Orleans, La.
50) Miami, Fla.

The most dangerous places are near the ocean. The West Coast is along the Pacific Ring of Fire where there's a lot of volcanic and seismic activity, and the East Coast has an active annual hurricane season.

I lived in Miami (1964-65) during Hurricane Cleo (devastating property damage) and in Los Angeles (1975-86) through many earthquakes (mostly minor), not to mention brush fires, mudslides and occasional riots.

Another study, posted on the Internet at, listed the same largest 50 American cities, from best to worst, based on "essential quality-of-life and economic factors that affect your personal sustainability."

The top 10 cities are:
1) Portland, Ore.
2) San Francisco, Calif.
3) Seattle, Wash.
4) Chicago, Ill.
5) Oakland, Calif.
6) New York City, N.Y.
7) Boston, Mass.
8) Philadelphia, Penn.
9) Denver, Colo.
10) Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10 least favorable cities (pre-Katrina) are:
41) Arlington, Tex.
42) Nashville, Tenn.
43) Detroit, Mich.
44) Memphis, Tenn.
45) Indianapolis, Ind.
46) Fort Worth, Tex.
47) Mesa, Ariz.
48) Virginia Beach, Va.
49) Oklahoma City, Okla.
50) Columbus, Ohio.

Utilizing the above criteria, Minneapolis appears to be the best place to live. Minnesota is second in terms of life span, plus Minneapolis is in the top ten of the safest cities and in the top ten of the most sustainable cities.

I lived in the Minneapolis metropolitan area in 1956-64 and 1968-75. It's a great place, but very cold in the winter and the summers are infested with the Minnesota state bird, more commonly known as the mosquito.

These days, I’m in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, where the terrain is hilly, housing is affordable, weather is fairly moderate and the women are definitely earthy. I’ll probably remain here for a long time.

The one place you don't want to live is anywhere near me, especially if you have noisy kids or wind chimes.

Quote for the Day -- “He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where earthy women roam free. His blogs appear on several websites, including


Steve Lim said...

when you are at home with yourself, anywhere is the best place on earth.

But I still love the ocean with all my heart- it makes me happy for no reason.

that is why i want to move to hawaii. gonna find out next year staying there a month. i am in london, it sucks.

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