Ask the “Best Places to Live” Guy
As co-author of the book Cities Ranked and Rated, Bert Sperling has strong ideas about where you should or shouldn’t live. In 2007, for example, he placed Modesto, Calif., at the bottom of the rankings (number 375 of 375 metro areas) in the book. Since then, he says,
It’s been the ground zero of the foreclosure mess, dragging down the surrounding economy.
We looked at the fundamentals and determined that certain areas of the country had conditions that were just unsustainable and due to collapse. Unfortunately we were correct.
Sperling, with a background in accounting and engineering, owned a software company in the mid-1980’s. When he spotted a study that ranked Pittsburgh as the best place to live in the U.S., he wrote some software that allowed people to generate ranked lists of places tailored to their preferences. After this system was written up in USA Today, Sperling was asked by Money magazine to compile its first “best places” list.
His franchise has since grown immensely. He’s done projects like “Hot Dating in Small Towns” for MTV, “The Healthiest Places to Retire” for the A.A.R.P., and “Best Places for Lesbians” for Girlfriends magazine. He’s co-author of the book Best Places to Raise Your Family. His research is available online here.
Sperling’s research has infected our cultural bloodstream, with mentions on The Simpsons, in a Leno monologue, and as Jeopardy questions. And yes, he’s been profiled by The Times.
So where does the “best places” guy choose as his home? He’s dividing his time between Depoe Bay, Ore., and Portland, Ore.; but he’s also lived in Kodiak, Alaska; Carmel Valley, Calif.; Key West, Fla.; Oslo, Norway; and Long Island, N.Y.
He has agreed to field your questions here, so fire away. (Wasilla, anyone?) As with our past Q&A’s, we’ll keep the comments section open for a few days and then post Sperling’s responses in short order.
Addendum: Sperling answers your questions here.