Not surprised – America’s worst place to live sounds great

I called this place ‘America’s worst place to live.’ Then I went there.
[Via Ezra Klein]

But what greeted me instead last week was pure spectacle. A drum line from nearby Lafayette High School performed a routine on the courthouse steps. Officials and county residents, beaming and full of civic pride, lined up to shake my hand and welcome me to their home. And a gaggle of local press was there, cameras rolling, to cover it all.

As a reporter, I’m used to folks disagreeing with me, especially when covering contentious topics like guns, gay marriage and drug policy. But until I wrote about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s natural amenities index — which rates and ranks counties on measures of scenery and climate — I had never been disagreed with so much.

And so politely.


Of course the criteria (based mostly on things like cold winters and hot summers) were looking at pleasant climates to live, not the social faults. So this article looks mainly at the people who have chosen to stay in an area with lousy weather.

I’d expect that those who hate the climate have left. Not surprising, the ones who stay have lots of reasons for staying.

And one certainly is: if you are going to stay in a place with lousy climate, you had better make sure everyone works well together. Poor social behavior will just drive people away more.

So, I would suggest that the lousy climate selects for nice people. While nice weather can attract lousy people (but the nice weather makes the lousy people easier to deal with).

I think the worst places to live would be those with mediocre weather, not too great but not too awful. Not enough to drive people away to nicer climes and just good enough to keep a lot of the nasty people around.

Weather and people – as long as one of those is exceptionally good, life is great. You can deal with the bad. Things get much worse when neither is exceptionally good.

Image: Nathan Siemers