Before you move to a new town, first read the outstanding new book, “Cities Ranked and Rated,” by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander. It is sure to open your eyes to considerations most people don’t evaluate when moving to unfamiliar areas.

However, if you are looking for the ideal, perfect place to work or retire, this book won’t reveal it. Instead it provides cold, hard statistics and lets the reader learn all they can in concise summaries about each city under consideration.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Sperling and Sander explain their book follows the “80-20 rule,” focusing on 20 percent of the total places that represent 80 percent of the most popular choices. They rank 331 U.S. metropolitan areas, 27 Canadian metropolitan areas and 45 “emerging” U.S. metropolitan areas.

The rankings are based on composite scores of nine statistical attributes plus one subjective appraisal on quality of life. Then the authors apply compensating adjustments so one bad factor, such as harsh weather, doesn’t unfavorably skew the results for an otherwise desirable town.

The nine principal ranking factors are the economy and jobs, cost of living, climate, education, health and healthcare, crime, transportation, leisure activity, arts and culture, and quality of life. Each metropolitan area is ranked in each category, often with wildly varying results.

Based on these criteria, where are the best U.S. places to live? The results will surprise you. The “top 10” are Charlottesville, Va.; Santa Fe, N.M.; San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Atlanta, Ga.; Asheville, N.C.; Reno, Nev.; and Corvallis, Ore. Why no Florida towns? Could it be the hot, muggy summers?

Based on the same criteria, where are the worst U.S. places to live? They are Laredo, Texas; Stockton, Calif.; Newburgh, N.Y.; Merced, Calif.; Kankakee, Ill.; Lawrence, Mass.; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Gadsden, Ala.; Anniston, Ala.; and Fort Smith, Ark.

The authors’ evaluation for each city is brutally honest, listing the pros and cons of each locality. For example, they praise Charlottesville, Va., as being clean and heavily shaded, with most areas accessible by foot or bicycle, with college amenities. But they quickly mention the high home prices, lack of airline service and rapid growth.

But last-ranked Laredo, Texas, fares poorly in its description. “The Spanish-colonial city center has been reinvigorated following a commercial boom but there is still little to do. At 111 days per year above 90 degrees, the city is one of the hottest in the United States. The Cost of Living Index is low at 77.3, but the city’s constant bustle, lack of intellectual stimulation, poverty, high crime rate and heat will try most anyone’s patience.”

Fortunately, most of the book offers a positive, upbeat note, with lots of fascinating statistics about each city reviewed. Although each city is profiled with its individual statistics, the book is full of interesting rankings, such as best cities for jobs (Billings, Mont.); lowest cost of living (Casper, Wyo.); best climate (Salinas, Calif.); education attainment (Boston, Mass.); healthcare (Rochester, Minn.); lowest crime (Danbury, Conn.); best transportation (San Francisco, Calif.); leisure activities (New York, N.Y.); arts and culture (New York, N.Y.); and best quality of life (Madison, Wis.).

According to the authors, most people don’t move primarily for the climate. Of course, they take it into consideration. But Sperling and Sander explain an area’s “character” plays a major role in relocations, such as look and feel, activities, services, crime rate, and healthcare availability.

This eye-opener, extremely well-researched book, presented in a very appealing format, should be required reading for any person considering relocating to a new city for employment or retirement. The key information provided in one easy source is priceless.

Chapter topics include “The Places”; “The Rankings”; “The Categories”; “The States”; “Principal U.S. Metropolitan Areas”; “Canada Metropolitan Areas”; and “Emerging U.S. Metropolitan Areas.”

Although the cities profiled in this monumental new book will likely challenge their rankings, this factual survey of the best and worst places to live is the most complete and up-to-date. The content presented in easy-to-understand tables and summaries is invaluable. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding new book rates an off the chart 12. (742 WORDS).

“Cities Ranked and Rated,” by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander (Wiley Publishing Inc., Hoboken, NJ), 2004, $24.99, 817 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


Send tips or a letter to the editor to or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 124.

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