How Livable Is Your Community?

AARP is out with the latest edition of its annual livability index, which tracks how communities perform on a series of livability metrics such as health care quality, housing affordability, career opportunities, and transportation access. This is an interesting resource on its own, but it’s also useful to compare the Livability Index’s rankings to other assessments such as the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities reports that track recent economic performance.   Sunbelt states, like Florida and Texas, dominate this latter ranking, but they perform relatively poorly in the AARP rankings.  In the AARP rankings, the Northeast and Midwest are strong performers. For example, larger places like New York City and San Francisco score highly, as do smaller places like Watertown MA, St. Louis Park. MN, and Orange City, IA. 

Traditionally, economic developers have paid more attention to business-focused rankings like those provided by the Milken Institute and others.  I suspect that we will now be putting more emphasis on assessments like AARP’s Livability Index.  In our current tight labor markets, the ability to develop, retain and attract talent will be the key to successful economic development.  Success in the talent wars obviously depends on the ability to generate new jobs, but it will be increasingly driven by a community’s livability.  If you can live and work anywhere, you’re going to opt for places with good education, good health care, and lots of opportunities to thrive.