Going shopping at the Gap
One good egg,
one scrambled mess

We're #45!

I live in the 45th most livable state. Think I can get a foam finger with that on it?

Personally, I think I live in the best state, but my opinion differs from the latest livability assessment by Morgan Quitno Press.

And that leads to two questions.

What is a Morgan Quitno? And how exactly did it determine the livability of Texas and the other 49 states (Washington, D.C. wasn't included)?

Us_map Let's take the second question first. In announcing its 2005 rankings, the publishing company compared states in more than 550 categories.

Then it averaged each state's rankings for 44 factors (both positive and negative), such as unemployment rates, job growth, sunny days, teenage birthrates, homeownership, books in public libraries per capita, highway fatality rates and, of course, taxes.

Using this data, New Hampshire comes out on top, for the second straight year. For the seventh year in a row, Mississippi finishes dead last. You can check out the complete listing here.

Hmmm. Why does the great "lies, damn lies and statistics" comment by British statesman Benjamin Disraeli (and popularized here across the pond by Mark Twain) come immediately to mind? In fact, this report is right up there with one on home values that I wrote about here, invoking the sister quote about "figuring liars."

Not that I'm calling anybody a liar. It's just that information, numerical and otherwise, can be manipulated in oh so many ways. Just think back on any conversation you've ever had about what exactly the Bible says.

Well, commenting on someone's house or the place it's located is right up there with impugning their religion. I mean, Texas is 45th on this list! Only five from the bottom! Get real!

I live in Austin, the capital of the Lone Star State, the best one in the Union! It's a great mid-sized city with fabulous things to offer: music (Live Music Capital of the World as exemplified each year by at the South by Southwest Music Festival that's just around the corner, not to mention Austin City Limits); food (Tex-Mex, BBQ and chicken-fried steak, not to mention more cosmopolitan fare).

There's a burgeoning film industry (home of, among others, innovative writer/director Robert Rodriguez, along with the South by Southwest Film Festival) and plenty of theaters to show all types of first-run movies.

Austin also is home to lots of visual arts venues; a world-class university (although as a grad of rival Big 12 school Texas Tech, it pains me to admit that!); lovely Hill Country terrain; and recreational opportunities out the wazoo.

Plus, you gotta love a place with an unofficial motto of "Keep Austin Weird."

I could go on and on. Point is, there's no place I'd rather live.

Of course, I have friends that beg to differ. They can't understand why I left Florida (ranked 37th this year; I guess the Sunshine State didn't register too brightly on the survey's sunny days component).

Then there are those who understand my reasons for moving. They also packed up their Florida belongings and transported them to similarly lower-ranked places like Alabama (#39) and, yes, even #50 Mississippi.

And we've got friends in Maryland (#12), Virginia (#5) and Washington, D.C. (not counted …) who still can't understand why we left the Mid-Atlantic region after spending so many very pleasant years there.

But we're all very happy where we now are, scattered across the United States. And I suspect everyone everywhere but New Hampshire agrees with me that this study is dead wrong.

Which brings me to my first question: What is Morgan Quitno Press?

According to its Web site, it is an independent private research and publishing company. Since 1989, the company has specialized in reference books that compare states and cities in several different subject areas.

Again, I'm not questioning their methodology or findings (well, I guess I am questioning their findings ...). But I will say that these kinds of comparisons are rife for second-guessing. 

I suppose, though, that actually could provide a promotional edge. It certainly gets a lot of people talking about the company and its annual rankings and possibly sells a few more books.

Speaking of locations, from where does Morgan Quitno pass its judgment on the nation's livability? It's based in Kansas, which came in 20th this year.

That's about in the middle, both geographically and in the rankings list, which I suppose is probably as good a place as any to survey the rest of the country.

Taxes across America: If taxes are a key issue for you in deciding where to live, you can check out your state's tax laws here.

And if you do decide to relocate, here's TODAY'S TAX TIP for you. You might be able to write off some of the costs on your tax return!


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eliz. s.

This post was included in Austinist's best of the Austin blogs this week.

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