Four Utah cities make “best places to live” list; what does this mean?

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Four Utah cities — Orem, Sandy, Lehi and North Salt Lake — made Money Magazine’s new list of the top 100 places to live in the United States, although none made it into the top 10.

The list is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it is somewhat, as the magazine puts it, contrarian. The editors decided to focus solely on cities with populations between 10,000 and 100,000, which means mainly suburbs. The trend right now is for millennials to flood urban centers in search of high-density housing. This, the editors said, has raised prices for city living and created opportunities in the suburbs, which also tend to provide many other amenities, including better schools than inner cities.

Second, the magazine started with 2,400 cities, then immediately eliminated those that, among other things, lacked ethnic diversity.

That is evidence that things are changing in Utah, where 22.2 percent of live births in 2015 were to mothers belonging to racial minorities, according to the Census Bureau.

Orem scored the highest among the Utah cities, finishing 14th. The magazine noted its “relatively modest” home prices, low crime rates and average commute time of 16 minutes “often to neighboring Provo.”

Orem has a new water playground and an “All-Together Playground” that accommodates children with special needs. Its library features a computer-coding club for children. Also, job growth is predicted at a 12.5 percent clip.

Sandy ranked 52nd, Lehi was 74th and North Salt Lake barely made the cut at 96th.

The state fared considerably better than neighboring Arizona, which had only one city, Paradise Valley, on the list, ranked 80th.

Utahns are used to ranking high on surveys that compare livability or business conditions. This one was a bit different because it considered things such as economic health, cost of living, public education, crime and ease of living, each of which came with its own criteria. Even the weather played a role, and that’s hard to change.

Because the best place to live is so subjective — each person has a unique view based on everything from childhood conditioning to religious and political preference — these studies likely have minimal impact on migration patterns.

They do, however, serve to gather and analyze data in important ways that help local leaders understand needs and set agendas.

Fishers, Ind., the No. 1 city on this list, was growing and attracting business before Money came along. Why this is so, however, may be of interest to other suburban cities.

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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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