The NY Times has an op-ed on the type of places Americans want to live (hat tip to Marginal Revolution). The answer apparently is that people are still looking for suburbia. I’ve put some time and effort into were to live, and I don’t get it. My unscientific theory on the suburbia fixation is that people think bigger houses with yards will make them happier and the burbs are a better place to raise children.

I strongly disagree with the first, I think the advantages of living in an urban neighborhood more than outweigh having a big house. Having restaurants, grocery stores and bars within walking distance makes the need for a big house mute. Throw in a some kind of park or public space and you can go live your life around your home instead of in it. I vaguely recall seeing some research relating negative health effects to living in areas with no amenities in walking distance, but your going to have to take my word on that.

As for the second reason, raising kids, I’m no expert. I do know that most the people I’ve met who grow up in cities tend to be very fond of their home towns, a sentiment that is mixed from people from smaller places. My sample might be biased because I know a lot more people from the ‘good cities’ than places like Detroit or Kansas City.

Speaking of the ‘good cities,’ the op-ed says most three of the top ten desirable cities to live happen to be the three I know the best: San Diego, Portland and Seattle. I’ve never understood the infatuation with Seattle (traffic and grey skies are my complaint), but Seattle-ites dig it so who am I too judge. Portland gets high WFS marks.  I love parts of San Diego but too much of the city has succombed to SoCal urban sprawl. Of course the weather makes up for the defficiencies.

The rest of the top ten in case you were wondering, were Denver, San Antonio (those sound good), Sacremento (I guess people like cows and Arnie), Pheonix (the desert? they must have asked a lot of retirees), San Francisco (lovely, and close to my grandparents), Orlando and Tampa Bay. I don’t know much about Orlando and Tampa Bay and have no plans to change that.

What I’d like to see is some urban planning bringing denser living to smaller towns, so you can get that urban feel outside of a metropolis. I’m not holding my breath since that would mean people would have to buy smaller homes, and that’s as American as central planning.