Selecting America's Dreamtowns

Chambersburg selected #12

America's Dreamtowns: Methodology
Reprinted from: bizjournals - July 21, 2008 by G. Scott Thomas
See related article with chart naming Chambersburg #12.

Bizjournals set out to find America's "dreamtowns," those smaller communities that score highest for quality of life. Here are the details:

Goal: The study's objective was to identify the nation's most attractive micropolitan areas. It gave the best marks to well-rounded communities with light traffic, healthy economies, moderate costs of living, impressive housing stocks, strong educational systems, and easy access to big-city attractions.

Dreamtowns: The top 10 micropolitan areas have been designated by bizjournals as "dreamtowns," since they offer the best small-town quality of life.

Areas: Micropolitan areas, as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, are smaller than metropolitan areas. Each micro consists of a central city, town or village with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, surrounded by a county or cluster of counties that are economically dependent upon it. Bizjournals analyzed all 140 micros that had 2006 populations of 65,000 or more (encompassing the central community and surrounding area). Statistics cited in this study cover all portions of micros, not just their central communities.

Sources: Nineteen of the 20 statistical indicators came from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, which was released late last year. The 20th indicator -- air mileage to the nearest major metropolitan area -- was calculated by bizjournals, using latitude and longitude readings supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Factors: Bizjournals used a 20-part formula to rate each market's quality of life. Each component is followed in parentheses by the trait it measured and the type of reading -- highest or lowest -- that earned a maximum score:

1. Population growth since 2000 (growth, highest).

2. Percentage of residents who have lived in the same home for more than one year (stability, highest).

3. Share of all residents who are between the ages of 25 and 44 (young adults, highest).

4. Percentage of workers who work at home or walk to work (ease of movement, highest).

5. Average commuting time (ease of movement, lowest).

6. Median household income (earnings, highest).

7. Poverty rate for families (earnings, lowest).

8. Mortgage affordability, calculated as a ratio of median house value per $1,000 of median household income (cost of living, lowest).

9. Rent affordability, calculated as a ratio of annual median rent per $1,000 of median household income (cost of living, lowest).

10. Unemployment rate (employment, lowest).

11. Percentage of all jobs that are classified as management or professional positions (employment, highest).

12. Percentage of workers who are self-employed (entrepreneurship, highest).

13. Percentage of houses that have been built since 1990 (housing stock, highest).

14. Percentage of houses that have nine or more rooms (housing stock, highest).

15. Homeownership rate (homeownership, highest).

16. Median house value (homeownership, highest).

17. Percentage of adults (25 or older) who hold high school diplomas (education, highest).

18. Percentage of adults (25 or older) who hold bachelor's degrees (education, highest).

19. Percentage of adults (25 or older) who hold advanced (master's, doctoral and/or professional) degrees (education, highest).

20. Air mileage to the closest major metropolitan area, defined as a metro with more than 2.5 million residents (metropolitan proximity, lowest).

Availability: Some, but not all, of the statistics for each micro are provided in chart form with this report. Space limitations prevented the publication of all figures.

Formula: Each micro's statistics were compared against the micropolitan averages in all 20 categories. Above-average performances received positive scores, while below-average results received negative scores. Each area's 20 category scores were totaled to determine its overall rank. Final scores ranged from 18.19 points for Torrington, Conn., to minus-21.26 points for Opelousas-Eunice, La.

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