The one thing that would make it really useful to me in the next year as my family decides where to move is the inclusion of public grade school/high school national rankings. I've been looking for some way to easily cross reference cost of living with quality of public schools.
I'm also curious about how you evaluated diversity. For example, my current city and one I'm intimately familiar with (Denver) scores only a 2 on diversity, while Boston scores a 5. Ethnically, both cities' largest demographic is non-hispanic whites (Denver 52%, Boston 47% -- not tremendously different; when you add in suburbs Boston is considerably whiter than Denver). The next two groups for Denver are Hispanic or Latino (32%) and Black or African American (10%), and for Boston Black or African American (24%) and Hispanic or Latino (17%). Again, these don't seem tremendously different to me. Denver has the largest Mongolian population in the United States, hosts one of the largest Native American Pow-Wows in the country, and has had 2 Black mayors and one Hispanic mayor (Boston has never elected a non-white mayor.) I realize there are other forms of diversity, but Denver does fairly well on those too (for example, 5.8% of Denver's population is LGBT; Boston is a slightly higher 6.2%.) Point being, I don't understand what criteria were used to score these cities on opposite ends of the diversity spectrum given that they both seem fairly diverse to my eye.
When I lived in Boston I noticed a high density of small ethnic grocery stores / eateries vs what I was used to in Denver. Within a radius of a few blocks from where I lived in Boston I had a Korean store, an Indian store, a Vietnamese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a Korean restaurant, and an Italian restaurant (none of which were franchised). In Denver I had a deli, a bunch of franchised fast food, and franchised ethnic food (Chipotle, Olive Garden, etc). My anecdata would score Boston as more diverse in this sense.
I notice that if you increase the minimum percentage of the population that uses public transportation to 15 percent, it eliminates basically everywhere except the major east coast cities, Chicago, and San Francisco.
I wouldn't find that surprising if using public transportation means using it exclusively, but I would find it surprising (and disheartening!) if it means using it regularly, or at least some of the time.
 76% drive alone, 11% carpool, 5% take public transportation, 8% other (walk, bike, taxi, work from home). http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/...
Live in Vancouver, shop in Portland seems to be highly efficient jurisdictional arbitrage. It's also a win if you spend years out of the country.
(A lot of datacenters are in OR specifically because of the lack of sales/use tax on servers; I used to think cheap power was the primary draw, but it actually is #2. Great fiber, supportive local governments with tax/etc. credits, etc. also contribute, but are less critical.)
I can't speak to the other areas, but running big numbers doesn't necessarily give you better information than people who were already living near "the good areas". And they've been rushing in to them, driving up rents, since before the census took its data.
It's a frustrating phenomenon.
But there are many reasons that might not be the case. Some off the top of my head: presence of asset-rich but income-poor retirees with paid-off mortgages; longer-term residents grandfathered in to a gentrified area via rent control or other stabilization measures; presence of university students, who tend to both have spending power out of line with their actual income (due to family, loans, etc.) and access to dorm housing; bimodal distributions where a moderate median hides a neighborhood that's half unaffordable and half a ghetto; people with employer-subsidized housing (faculty housing, military housing); etc.
Other income-based measures might give a better idea, though. Median income of working-age adults who've lived there <5 yrs could give an idea of what people who've recently made a similar move make.
Also look at how he schools work. Cambridge and Boston for example, have mandatory bussing, so your kids won't go to a neighborhood school.
You should try to use other factors to avoid living in a bad area. For example, penalize areas within 10 blocks of hospitals and large universities. Institutions usually maintain slummy property in the immediate vicinity to make room for expansion.
Also look at property tax rate as a percentage of property value. Higher rate cities that have cheap rent aren't places where you want to live.
Using all of that data, I gave each category a rank based on how important it was, and tallied the results. My top three cities were Vallejo, CA, San Francisco, and Olympia, WA. I've never been to any of those places, but I want to leave Ohio. At least now I know where to start looking.
Anyone have an opinion of Vallejo?
Downtown is decent (although a shell of its former self), the waterfront is good, there's good sailing & kayaking opportunities, easy access to Napa & Sonoma, plenty of hiking around. Not a bad spot.
In my experience, there isn't a whole lot in town itself; it's gone through a period of bankruptcy and sketciness, although not as dangerous as some other towns like Richmond, CA.
There is some "trickle" effect for tech jobs slowly making their way south (I see regular postings for Tukwilla, Renton and even Federal Way development jobs), and some in Tacoma, but my experience is they tend to hold onto that 50-60+ hours a week work ethic, but only pay 35-45k. No thanks.
Personally if I had to pick anywhere but the Seattle area (perfect for me, the gloom doesn't effect me like it does others), it'd have to be either SLC or Boulder/Castle Rock (both near Denver).
SF is probably better climate, IMO, and the idea appeals to me, but the cost of living combined with the traffic... no thanks. Seattle traffic is above what I consider acceptable, SF would kill me.
Only SLC has jobs...oh and there is Denver also. My dream is to live in Jackson Hole, but I think you need to be rich.
For that matter, optimizing mostly for walkability, the filter spits out Lakeview in Chicago. But Lakeview is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Chicago, and isn't significantly more walkable than many cheaper neighborhoods here.
> Affordability wasn’t hard; I mapped all the census tracts in the country that had a median income within $10,000 of mine, both above and below.
I can't speak to other neighborhoods, but in the case of Capitol Hill I suspect that this measure is a poor proxy for affordability. Capitol Hill residents might be disproportionately people who are willing to pay a premium to live in the City.
Or the sort of data provided by Kwelia.
The DC suburbs include some of the richest neighborhoods in the country, yes, richer than San Francisco (where do you think $2T annually in government spending goes?). Mill Valley also probably has a higher median income than the Mission, despite cheaper 1-br apartments.
While I haven't lived in the Valley long enough, I'm currently paying about $2100 a month for just 700 sqft, and other places are even worse around here.
And income may be higher in some respects, but that is pretty much exclusively in the government sector or law.
Of course I live outside town, even less expensive. For the price of my San Jose house on 1/4 acre, I have 80 acres in the country here.
I also like his conclusion of eh, we'll just move to Columbia Heights anyway. I would too, but this makes me notice one thing that that this whole thing is missing: schools. I don't know if there's any school data that could be applied to this, but I bet it would be a good way to narrow down some of the results.
The Maryland side is cheaper, but nobody likes Maryland :) .
And you're right, nobody likes Maryland. Not even Marylanders.
 I've lived within that area
0: Footnotes are typically used to express parenthetical thoughts that are too unwieldy for inline inclusion, like this one.
The map should be 15th Ave and 23rd Ave. Seattle is the only city where I've seen people struggle with this.