How to Compare Two Cities
When choosing a place to live, most people gravitate toward places that provide safe, affordable housing and salary ranges compatible with the city's cost of living. Beyond those basics, however, to compare a couple of cities to each other, you will need to think about what factors would make a city truly livable in your eyes.
Make a comparison chart of specific factual information about each city; for example, you might list such factors as the geographical size as well as the population of the metropolitan area, the average temperature and rainfall, the crime statistics for both urban and suburban areas of the city and the percentage of change in the cost of living index. This kind of factual information, all of which can be stated in numeric form, is available on such sites as the U.S. Census or City-Data and provides a starting point for your comparison. Use a highlighter to mark the more appealing figures; for example, perhaps you would highlight City A because of the weather, while City B would get the nod for lower crime statistics.
Select for research two or three more subjective areas than those you compared in Step 1. Choose such elements for comparison as transportation, environment, education, healthcare and/or employment opportunities. Your research might turn up information, for example, that tells you that Eugene, Ore. is "the greenest city in the country" in 2010, according to National Geographic's Green Guide. On the other hand, you might find out in your research that the schools in one particular city are in turmoil or that there is virtually no public transportation available to residents. Make notes on the facts you uncover.
Use a site such as Sperling's Best Places to make cost of living comparisons between two cities. By entering the amount of your salary and the names of the two cities you are comparing, you will be able to determine how far your salary would go in each city. For example, according Sperling's index, a salary of $100,000 in Kansas City, Mo. would have to increase to $191, 945 in New York City because New York is 92 percent more expensive than Kansas City.
Use travel guidebooks to compile lists of activities and cultural attractions for both cities. List activities you enjoy or might like to try. If you're into cultural attractions, look for opportunities to hear music, visit galleries and museums and see theater. You might be the outdoor type, in which case you would look for how far outside the city you'd have to go to find fishing, hiking or camping areas. Check for opportunities that exist in each city for participation and spectator sports. Go to the tourism sites for both cities and check out what kind of events are listed through the course of the year.
Make yourself a visual presentation. Use four sheets of poster board so you'll have plenty of room to create compiled lists for each; title the sheets: Positives --- City A, Negatives --- City A, Positives --- City B, Negatives --- City B. Transfer the information you have gathered in the four previous steps to the appropriate sheet. For example, if a city offers full public transportation, that fact would go on the positive side; if a city offers very little in the way of opportunities for outside activities, that information would go on the negative side. When you're finished transferring the information, compare cities, giving particular weight to factors you consider vital to your lifestyle.
- "Places Rated Almanac: The Classic Guide for Finding Your Best Places to Live in America"; David Savageau; 2007
- "Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life"; Richard Florida; 2009
Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.
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