Sizzling Cities ranked – our new Heat Index

Which metros suffer through the summer, and where do residents just chill out?

We just released our new Sperling Heat Index, and I’m pretty excited about it.  It not only uses the average summer high temperature, but also includes the nighttime low temperature and dew point (a measure of humidity).

Of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Houston have the hottest summers, and Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland have the coolest. (A full list of the 50 metros is at the end of this post, and a ranking of all 361 U.S. metros is available for download here.)

Top Ten Sizzling Cities (of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas)

Rank Metro Heat Index Average high temp Nighttime low temp  Dew point Relative humdity at high temp
1 Phoenix-Mesa, AZ 97.7 104.5 77.0 55.7 20%
2 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 94.4 103.1 75.2 42.2 13%
3 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 92.4 94.9 73.1 67.5 41%
4 Houston-Sugar Land, TX 92.3 92.0 74.3 72.9 54%
5 Austin-Round Rock, TX 92.2 94.8 72.3 69.1 44%
6 San Antonio, TX 92.1 94.4 72.6 69.3 44%
7 Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL 92.0 90.3 75.3 73.1 57%
8 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 91.7 90.7 74.5 73.2 57%
9 Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 91.6 91.9 73.3 72.4 53%
10 Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL 91.5 90.8 73.9 73.0 56%

(full list of 50 at the end of this post)
Click here to get the all the supporting data in a spreadsheet, including high temperatures, nighttime temperatures, dew point and relative humidity.

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America’s Fittest Cities – ACSM

The annual American Fitness Index is well-intentioned but conflicting metrics dilute its focus.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has released their sixth annual American Fitness Index (AFI) which “evaluates the infrastructure, community assets and policies that encourage healthy and fit lifestyles in the 50 most populous metro areas in the United States.”

I’m going review their study and tell you what they did right, and where the ACSM could improve their analysis.  In fact, I’ll show you how in their effort to make a great study, they actually ended up making their index much weaker.

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Best Football Cities

Which city produces the most pro football players?  Either all-time or the modern era, it’s the same place.

It may not be our national pastime, but football is probably the most-followed sport in America.  It’s certainly got the biggest single game – pigskin fanatic or not, chances are you’ll be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday.

Cities that can lay claim to the title of Super Bowl Champion change every year, but are there places where football excellence has been consistent for decades?

We wondered too, and thought about what it means to be a great football town. We decided it’s more than wins and losses, attendance, and championships. Heck, maybe there isn’t even an NFL team in town.  More importantly, it’s where there’s touch games in the street, an old tire to throw to in every yard, and families spend their weekends at the Pop Warner field.

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Houston – The Place to Go?

Houston, TX

The New York Times announces “The 46 Places to Go in 2013

Now this is not just a list of interesting spots.  Oh, no.  This is a list of “THE” places you must visit, and because the places have been precisely and lovingly vetted and curated, there are exactly 46 of them.

Not 50 places, because any hack can throw together a list with a nice round number like that.  By choosing 46 locations, it lends an air of precision and perfection to the crafting of the list.

So check this out… At #7, out of all the places in the world, is Houston (yes, that Houston… Texas.)  Right after Rio, Marseille, Nicaragua, Accra (Ghana), Bhutan, and Amsterdam.  (“What’s in Houston?  Culture and food.”)

And the reason that their choice of Houston is interesting is that it was #1 in our list of the top 20 Coolest Cities in the U.S., which we did with Forbes in July 2012.

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Three Kinds of Gun Deaths

second amendment

What the numbers tell us about firearm legislation

In the wake of the terrible mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, there is a great deal of solemn intoning that Something Must Be Done.

Click to view – Firearm Deaths by State and Motive

As you listen to the discussion, it’s important to remember that there are different kinds of gun deaths and with one category, firearm laws appear to have a big effect on reducing the number of fatalities.  On the other category, the relationship is not so clear.

But back to the rhetoric.
Some politicians and experts are looking for stronger gun control laws to limit access to deadly weapons and others want increased emphasis on psychological screening, with the notion that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  A few gun advocates believe the answer is MORE guns, so that any threat is met with a hail of  gunfire from armed bystanders or guards before innocent victims are harmed.  (I’m reminded of the recent shootout in New York City where nine bystanders were injured, all by police gunfire.)

I analyzed statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), focusing on the deaths from firearms during for the period of 2009-1999 (the most recent available).  I looked at the differences between firearm deaths between different states and metro areas, comparing the number of deaths with each state’s gun control legislation as scored by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

I’ve published all the data for the states and the 379 major metro areas and made it available in a spreadsheet for your download and further analysis.

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Best Cities for Veterans

veterans from the marines army air force and navy

Veterans starting the post-service phase of their lives face a unique set of opportunities and challenges.veterans from the marines army air force and navy

On the one hand, the post-9/11 G.I. Bill can help with getting a college education.  On the other hand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veterans between the ages of 25 and 34 have unemployment rates nearly 4 points higher than comparable civilians.

Working with USAA Insurance and Military.com, we decided to shed some light on this issue by determining the Best U.S. Cities for Veterans.

Out of 379 major U.S. metro areas, here’s the top 10:

  1. Pittsburgh, PA
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Dallas, TX
  4. Cleveland, OH
  5. Atlanta, GA
  6. Warren, MI
  7. Ann Arbor, MI
  8. Cincinnati, OH
  9. Columbus, OH
  10. St. Louis, MO

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Deadly Halloween

As parents we tend to fret about children and every Halloween there are stories about hazards such as tainted candy and “stranger danger.”  These stories often prove to be overblown but the real danger on Halloween is that it is the most deadly day of the year for young pedestrians.

That’s a fact we uncovered in a research project we recently completed for State Farm insurance.  Kids have a greater chance of being fatally injured by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, including the Fourth of July.

We analyzed more than four million records of auto fatalities in the Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), ranging from 1990 to 2010.  Here’s what we found…

Halloween Was Deadliest Day of the Year for Child Pedestrian Accidents
One hundred and fifteen child pedestrian fatalities occurred on Halloween over the 21 years of our analysis. That is an average of 5.5 fatalities each year on October 31, which is more than double the average number of 2.6 fatalities for other days.

Middle of the Block Most Hazardous
Over 70% of the accidents occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk.

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Best Baseball Cities

A baseball lies in a freshly fallen leaves

October!  The most special month of the year for every baseball fan.  The World Series determines the best baseball team, but did you ever wonder which place can lay claim to the best baseball city?

We wondered too, and thought about what it means to be a great baseball town.  We decided it’s more than wins and losses, attendance, and championships.  It’s where there’s a batting cage in every backyard, kids sleep with their mitts, and families spend their entire weekend at the Little League field.

We realized that every big-league ballplayer represents thousands of kids who once dreamed playing in the Big Show.

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America’s Coolest Cities

rock and roll musician Lou Reed

This July was the hottest on record in the U.S. and 2012 is on track to be our hottest year ever. You better believe Americans are cranking the A/C and heading for the swimming holes.

But when it comes to my “cool cities” study, I’m talking about the other kind of cool.  The sunglasses, Levi’s and t-shirt James Dean cool.

I worked with Forbes with their article to find where the youth of America are headed, where it’s “happening.”  Would you believe Houston comes out on top?  Last year H-town sported a vigorous 2.6% job growth while welcoming over 50,000 new residents to the area, many of them young professionals.

We looked at recreational opportunities, such as amount of green space, golfing and skiing, and pro and college sports teams.

We also used my Diversity Index, which measures the likelihood that someone you meet will be of different race or ethnicity.  Higher diversity translates to a greater number of cool stores, events, and eateries.

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Retiring on $100 a Day

senior citizens riding bikes together

Can you really retire in America and only spend $100 a day?  Turns out it’s a lot more possible than you might think.

When I started this recent study with AARP, I’d expected only about 20 or 30 U.S. cities would be this affordable.  But I was surprised to discover that most U.S. metro areas have a low enough combination of housing prices and property taxes to meet this criteria.

So what are the best cities for a $100/day retirement?

Based on things like arts and culture, rich community and great restaurants, here’s the Top 10:

City State Population
1 Spokane WA 471,221
2 Las Cruces NM 209,233
3 Eau Claire WI 161,151
4 Roanoke VA 308,707
5 Morgantown WV 129,709
6 Pittsburgh PA 2,356,285
7 San Antonio TX 2,142,508
8 Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA 865,350
9 Grand Junction CO 146,723
10 Gainesville FL 264,275

I’m assuming a 25% tax rate, which will reduce your yearly income of $36,500 to $27,375 spendable income.  That’s $2,281 per month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a percentage of 31.5% for the housing component of the Consumer Price Index.  That means that we have $719 per month for mortgage payments and property taxes.

I’m assuming a 20% down payment, which means that with current low interest rates, we can afford a house priced at $192,000.  Of course, putting up the nearly $40,000 (20% of $192,000) for the down payment may be challenging.

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