Moving to the “worst” place in America

Posted to Statistics  |  Tags:  |  Nathan Yau

In 1999, the Department of Agriculture published a Natural Amenities Scale that took into account “six measures of climate, topography, and water area” to help identify desirable places to live for most people.

More recently, Christopher Ingraham for the Washington Post took a quick look at the data, and declared Red Lake County the “worst” place to live in America. That’s when it got interesting. Life in a metro area started to wear.

Life along the I-95 corridor was starting to lose its charm too. I commute in to D.C. most days. A one-way trip, involving car, train, metro and a walk takes about 90 minutes on a good day. I count myself among that woebegone 2.62 percent of workers who spend 15 hours or more each week stuck in traffic, shivering on subway platforms, and otherwise squandering a huge chunk of their waking hours on one of their most-hated activities.

Now Ingraham is packing his bags with his family and moving to Red Lake County.

You see, that’s the thing about data. It only captures so much of what happens in real life. The key is to figure out how well the data represents something and then make conclusions. Otherwise you’ll never know when the “worst” is actually the best.

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