USA Today and 24/7 Wall Street have concluded that I live in the worst city in Massachusetts, or at least that Springfield is the worst city in which to live in the Bay State. It comes from a list of the worst cities in each state. It’s hard to imagine what the justification is for even making such a list unless they admit that it’s just click bait. The instinct to bully is at its core: Given the criteria I hardly think that any of these communities weren’t already known to be among the struggling. Also, using “worst” avoids such inconvenient terms as “blackest”, “poorest”, “puertoricanest”, or “mexicanest”.
It’d be cool to click on a list like this one and see suburbs like Greenwich, Lexington, and Katonah. I mean, those places would really suck for a lot of people; say about half, who earn less than the median income but who would still insist on having luxuries like shelter.
Much like the “best schools” lists it actually inverts the relationship between the data and what it communicates. What it tells you is not “what place NOT to live to lead a ‘good’ life” but rather in what place people who live the worst lives tend to live. Instead of “where not to move to be happy” it tells you “where to go to find unhappy people”.
And the difference matters.
As I have said many times it does not go unnoticed by me that so many of my neighbors would take any opportunity to leave this place; the museums, restaurants, parks, architecture, educational opportunities, jobs, public transit, and health care facilities notwithstanding. What they want is away from their lives and a study like the one in question confirms for them that their problem lies in their urbs but not themselves.
From the outside the effects are almost as insidious. As often happens at cultural events my wife found herself talking to a suburbanite. In the course of the conversation my wife said that Springfield gets a bad rap. In response…while actively participating in a wonderful outdoor event in a beautiful downtown venue…this man responded that Springfield deserved every bit of opprobrium that it received. The irony of paying for the opportunity to experience an event in an almost one-of-a-kind atmosphere like the Quadrangle apparently went unnoticed.
Quality of life on these lists is measured by things like average income and educational attainment: Is your employer going to cut your pay 63% if you move here? Will your Master’s Degree be decertified upon taking up residence?
I’ll spare my readers, this time, a repetition of why living here is sometimes so heavenly, I’ll just say that there are probably a few people who wouldn’t mind living my life as I live it here, in Springfield, the Worst City in Massachusetts.