Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Stupid List of Cities

I am a sucker for all the dumb lists that rank cities and this one makes me really bugs me for several reasons. It is the Forbes list of "America's Safest Cities". Part of the problem is that they lump all the safety factors together, crime, natural disasters, traffic accidents, etc. Many people would really only care about certain factors and not others. You may not even own a car and intend to walk or take public transit then you don't really care about the traffic fatalities. The larger problem is that these problems only impact certain people for certain reasons in certain places. While crime is bad in Milwaukee it is not so bad in Mequon. While traffic accidents are common in Miami, they are not likely to be a big concern if you live and work on Miami beach. It is good that they make it clear that this a ranking of metropolitan areas and not just the central cities but the rick factors usually vary a lot based on where in the area you live and work. Saint Louis Park is safer than Minneapolis.

Part of what is frustrating is that these are actually important issues that people should care more about but this is so broad that it is useless. It think people should consider the Traffic Death Rates when picking a spot to live or work but there is so much more you'd want to know to make any type of informed decision. The top two cities NYC and Boston have many people who take public transit or walk/ bike to work and if the statistic is per capita death rate it would make sense that they would have lower overall rates. If you were to consider moving to Boston but had to drive on the highway all the time long distances, you don't know if you'd be any less likely to die than if you lived in any other place. Even the cities that ranked the worst in terms of traffic death rates, Orlando or Jacksonville, you don't know where and who is killed and why. Maybe the reason for this is very high rates of drunk driving on weekends late at night. If you are not out at those times, why would you care?

While I am glad I live in Wisconsin a spot with little risk of wild fires, earth quakes and hurricanes, the natural disaster ranking is also pretty worthless. Even though these disasters can be very destructive, the risk is largely one of cost (fire insurance) and possible large inconvenience and the risk is not universal across a metro area either. If you have a new home that can withstand a hurricane or earthquake, you should be less worried.

The workplace safety one seems the most silly to include at all. People should consider if their job is safe not whether people in their city have higher rates of workplace accidents or injuries. Maybe the reason that Indianapolis or Houston have high rates of workplace deaths is because they have more people working in dangerous professions like manufacturing or construction. If I am a laywer, do I care?

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