Best for whom?

While I was poking around looking for some random bit of information about Edison, N.J.’s changing racial demographics, I came across Money Magazine’s 2009 list of “best places to live.”   Since I was curious, I looked up the racial stats.  Here are the top ten:*

Percent White*
Louisville, CO 91
Chanhassen, MN 94.9
Papillion, NE 93
Middleton, WI 92
Milton, MA 86.7
Warren, NJ 86.2
Keller, TX 93.7
Peachtree City, GA 87.6
Lake St. Louis, MO 95.6
Mukilteo, WA 82.6

*Most of these figures are from the 2000 Census, although a couple are from the more recent community survey.

The largest African American population in any of these cities was 6 percent; the largest Asian American population was 10.

Money has since released the 2010 list, and heading it is Eden Prairie, MN.  (The 2000 Census says Eden Prairie is 90.7 percent white.)

So how did Money pick these places?  Here’s the only qualifier that is overtly race-based:

Exclude places where the median family income is more than 200% or less than 85% of the state median and those more than 95% white.

If I read the FAQs correctly, no more than 191 small towns (population 50,000-300,000) were eliminated for being more than 95 percent white.  I was actually a little surprised by this; I would have thought the number would be higher.

Apparently “diversity” is considered as well:

Rank remaining places based on housing affordability, school quality, arts and leisure, safety, health care, diversity, and several ease-of-living criteria.

Of course, “diversity” means something different to white people and people of color.  Studies have also shown that white people tend to significantly overestimate the number of people of color in their community.

And then the list was whittled down further:

Visit towns and interview residents, assessing traffic, parks, and gathering places and considering intangibles like community spirit.

“Community spirit”?  Like how that Harvard study showed “racial homogeneity” increases “inter-racial trust”?

Money’s repeated publishing of these “best” lists intrigues me for a number of reasons.  First, it appears the list is geared towards white people (and probably white people with specific other privileges).  Second, the 2009 list didn’t include any cities with an African American population greater than 6 percent.  I can’t remember all the details, but various studies have showed that once a previously almost-all-white community’s population becomes more than seven* percent African American, it will eventually become majority black.

*Okay, I can’t remember all the details.  I’m pretty sure it was seven.  I have all the research on a floppy disk somewhere.

So are these communities attractive to white people because the white population is fairly stable?  Have any of these communities faced rapidly changing racial demographics?

I don’t know if there is any similar research about Asian Americans.  But I have lived in two towns where substantial numbers of Asian Americans moved into previously mostly-white areas.  If there are just one or two of you, white people are pretty tolerant.  But significant numbers tend to raise tension.  (Cupertino comes to mind.)

And where are the great small towns that are majority-black or majority-Asian or majority-other-brown?  I came across this interesting Christian Science Monitor article about African American small towns.  Aren’t there any small towns with majority-Asian populations?  Like maybe in Hawaii or California?

In any event, I wonder what it would be like to live in such a community.  As it is, I feel a marked difference having moved to an area with a significant Asian population.  For one thing, many of my neighbors speak to me now.  But a majority population?  I don’t think I can even imagine it.



8 thoughts on “Best for whom?

  1. Well nice to see them using tangible things for a few, LOL.

    “…housing affordability, school quality, safety, health care, and several ease-of-living criteria… assessing traffic, parks, and gathering places.” OK, that works.

    These below are a little harder to qualify. Did they give any more details?

    “arts and leisure” — This really depends on what exactly they looked at.

    “Visit towns and interview residents and considering intangibles like community spirit.” — Umm, so if the people living there like it must be a good place! Let’s all move there!

    “diversity” — This is what’s known as an epic fail. Probably one of the reasons I never read MONEY magazine. If I did, I’d write a letter and ask them how the hell diversity could be a criteria when the white population is essentially 83%+ in every single one of those places. Somebody needs to check a dictionary.

    By the way, resistance, not sure if you’ve seen the Rush Limbaugh tirade about how he thinks Obama is purposely destroying the country as payback, but you might want to look for it. I have a link to the whole whack-ass segment he did that I found on YouTube, just email me if you want it, as it wasn’t easy to find. There is a blurb on it though on Racism Review.

    I got into a hot debate about it last night with someone who insisted Rush isn’t racist, and I’d love to hear that discussed on the blog here if you’re interested. If not, all good. Not like most people don’t already know Rush is insane, but this was ridiculous.

  2. I thought of Irvine, CA, which is where most of my Asian friends lived when I was growing up, and it was always considered an “Asian town”. (Although not just Asian – it was specifically considered a town for Asians who were upper-middle-class or rich.) But when I looked it up, even there the population is 47% white, 36% Asian, 9% Hispanic, 6% Other, 2% Black. So while it’s a sizable Asian population, Irvine isn’t Asian majority.

    I found this list though:

  3. @Hollywood: Well, when they say “diversity”, what they actually mean is “minimal diversity”. As in, “Look, we’re magnanimous enough to let some of those people of color live here. Go us! We’re culturally tolerant! …But not too many of them. We don’t want the town to change in anything more than a slightly cosmetic fashion.”

  4. Peachtree City is pretty scary, too. It’s a town founded by Delta pilots, and it’s known for being a golf cart community. They have one subsidized housing complex, and it’s largely white as well.

  5. Good points, good article. Check out the 2010 list ( I dont know much about many of the cities, but it is interesting to see they included Columbia, MD and ranked it #2. Used to live there, and while it still is mostly white and definitely has its problems regrading race and class (one such problem being the whole, ‘Look at us, we’re SOOO diverse and tolerant, check out how many minorities we have!’) But I think it does a bit better than some of the other cities. If we’re going for statistics, Hispanic is 3.8%, White is 65%, Black is 20.8%, Native American: 0%, Asian: 7.5%.

    On the long run I’d be interesting to see if Money magazine’s cities start inching towards greater racial diversity –well, “diversity”, since it probably wont be very much even then

  6. Hell, the white people I know in Louisville are bothered by how utterly white it is.

    Boulder is similar.

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