Down on fourth place was a familiar name: Tracy, Calif.
Obviously, this caught my attention — in a hurry. Tracy on the “worst in the U.S.” list? I’d better check this out.
I found that lists of the 10 “Best” and 10 “Worst” cities rated 536 cities on how residents balance their jobs and living factors. The lists were compiled by NerdWallet, a website that provides info on what it considers the best bang for the buck in “finance, investing, education, shopping and health.”
A glance at both lists provided rapid insight into how Tracy found itself on the wrong one. Of the top 10 “Best” cities for work-life balances, nine are university cities with short drive-to-work times and relatively modest rental costs. Bloomington, Ind., home of Indiana University, topped the list. The only non-university city is Bellingham, Wash., which has a two-year technical college.
Of the 10 “worst” cities, California placed a majority — six, including Tracy (No. 4) and Antioch (No. 8). Nine on the list (New York City being the only exception) are cities near metropolitan centers with longer drive-to-work times and higher monthly rents than those on the “Best” list.
The judging categories: 1. Mean weekly hours worked. 2. Mean travel time to work (minutes). 3. Mean earnings for full-time year-round workers. 4. Mean gross rent.
Bloomington scored 79.40 points with a 15.2-minute dive to work time and median gross monthly rent of $788.
Tracy posted a score of 33. As you probably have guessed by now, Tracy got hit for a long commute, 42.6 minutes (longest on either list); and for a higher median gross rent, $1,358.
Our mean average earnings, $50,080 for full-time year-round workers, was slightly higher than any city on the “Best” list. Tracy scored 37.3 mean weekly hours worked, a score close to that of cities on either list.
We may earn a bit more, but spend more time commuting and have higher housing costs. No surprises there.
Travel time to work for the “Best” cities ranged from 15.2 minutes to 19.5 minutes. On the “Worst” list, travel times ranged from 36.2 minutes (Corona, Calif.) to Tracy’s top of 42.6 minutes.
For mean rental costs, the “Best” list ranges from $661 (Kalamazoo, Mich.) to $866 (Bellingham, Wash.).
On the “Worst” list, monthly rental costs were all above the $1,000 mark, ranging from $1,111 (Palmdale) to $1,640 (Germantown, Md.). Again, commute times and rental housing costs proved to be key factors.
In addition to the scores in the four categories, the cities on the “Best” list were reported by NerdWallet to offer a wide variety of free-time opportunities, including cultural and recreation activities and collegiate sports events. Doesn’t hurt being a university city.
According to NerdWallet, here are the “Best” and “Worst” cities for work-life balance:
“Best” — 1. Bloomington, Ind.; 2. Provo, Utah; 3. Gainsville, Fla.; 4. Eau Claire, Wis.; 5. Tuscaloosa, Ala.; 6. Iowa City, Iowa; 7. College Station, Texas; 8. Eugene, Ore. 9. Bellingham, Wash.; 10. Kalamazoo, Mich.
“Worst” — 1. Dale, Va.; 2. Waldorf, Md.; 3. Menifee, Calif.; 4. Tracy, Calif.; 5. Germantown, Md.; 6. New York, N.Y.; 7. Chino Hills, Calif.; 8. Antioch, Calif.; 9. Palmdale, Calif.; 10. Corona, Calif.
After going through all of the data, I can understand why cities in similar positions as Tracy are on the “Worst” list, at least according to the criteria. But there was no consideration given to Tracy’s proximity to the Bay Area and the Sierra. Besides, winter in Kalamazoo and summer is Gainsville? I’d rather live in Tracy.
Check out NerdWallet Cities for the full report, including charts of the rating scores and comments on cities on the “Best” list.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.