Editor’s note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss’ “Best of” collection first appeared Sunday, June 11, 2006.
If you can move any place in the United States to raise your family, first read “Best Places to Raise Your Family,” by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander. This unique book reveals the top 100 best towns for families, based primarily on standard of living, education, lifestyle, and health and safety considerations.
However, if you think you will find the perfect place for families, you will be disappointed. Even Sperling and Sander admit, “There is no perfect place,” that appeals to everyone. As their profiles of 100 towns explain in great detail, every place has its pros and cons.
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Although there are many authors’ opinions throughout the 100 reports on the best U.S. family-friendly towns, most of the best places are based on facts and lots of statistics. Subjective evaluations are extremely difficult, even for the expert authors. For example, I grew up in Edina, Minn., so I was especially interested in the authors’ recommendations for that state. Their first choice was Rochester, Minn., primarily for its superb Mayo Clinic medical facility and the excellent public schools. I agree. But their second Minnesota choice was Lakeville, a distant Minneapolis suburb. With that selection, I respectfully disagree because there are far better located, better quality of life, and more affordable towns (such as Edina!) close to employment centers.
This is a fantastic book to read when you want to dream about where you would like to live. If you are self-employed, and can live anyplace, this is the perfect book for you. Or if you are an employee being transferred, this is a great book to determine which is the best town near your new employment location to select.
For statistic-minded individuals, especially engineers, this book is a dream come true. It is filled with tables, maps, statistical charts, and just about every way to analyze a town for prospective relocation. If the book has a fault, it is information overload with too many statistics and not enough subjective opinions about what it is like to live in a specific recommended town.
As I poured through all the information, I was impressed with the many towns that are “near” a big city and its special attractions. Of the list of ideal places to raise your family, shockingly there are no large cities. I suspect the reason is most big cities have poor-quality public schools, which is a major disqualifier.
Even if you are not considering moving, this new book is a great book to read for possible future relocation. But remember the emphasis is on the best places to raise a family, not the best places to retire, find a job, or anything else.
Surprisingly, some states have no recommended places to raise a family. Those few states are Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine. Many states have only one “best place” for families.
Others have several towns, many of which are relatively unknown. To illustrate, have you ever heard of Getzville or Pittsford, N.Y? Me neither, but they are on the top 100 list.
Although I am familiar with many of the towns recommended by Sperling and Sander, I wonder if they thoroughly investigated all their suggestions. For example, where I live in northern California, the authors recommend living in Winters and Folsom, Calif. I’ve been to both places. I’m sure the residents are happy there, but from the descriptions, they seem like boring places without much to do.
Where do these expert authors live? Based on the vast statistical information they produced for this outstanding book, you would think they live someplace exotic, with near-perfect weather, affordable, with excellent educational and medical facilities, in a top employment center. Wrong. Co-author Peter Sander lives in Granite Bay, Calif., while co-author Bert Sperling resides in Depoe Bay, Ore.
Chapter topics include: “Finding Your Best Place”; “Today’s Families and Trends”; “What Makes the Best Place Best?” “A Closer Look at the Facts”; and “Neighborhood Profiles of the Top 100 Places.”
Just in case you absolutely must know the top 10 best places for families to live, as selected by Sperling and Sander, they are Louisville, Colo.; Gaithersburg, Md.; Roswell, Ga.; Lakeville, Minn.; Flower Mound, Texas; Fort Collins, Colo.; Cary, N.C.; Sugar Land, Texas; Columbia, Md.; and Noblesville, Ind.
Creating a great book like this is a monumental achievement. But it is based mostly on statistics, not the reality of families who live in the recommended towns. Interviews with local residents would have added realism to reveal what they like best and least about their towns.
Obviously, none of the 100 recommended places are bad locations to raise a family. But statistics alone can be very misleading. On my scale of one to 10, this unique book rates an eight because it is more like a dull textbook rather than a resource with subjective opinions from trusted advisers.
“Best Places to Raise Your Family,” by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander (Wiley Publishing Inc., Hoboken, N.J., 2006, $24.99, 414 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.
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