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Where Do You Fit? NYT Offers 35-Criterion Quiz to Pick Preferable Cities

Well-traveled New York Times graphics editors Gus Wezerek and Yaryna Serkez put together a fun quiz helping people figure out where they should live. Either I’m too picky or the quiz is off-kilter: only three towns—East Quincy, CA; Mansfield, CT; and Kiryas Joel, N.Y.—fit my criteria 80% or better. In the Midwest, I get four towns in the 70s—Grand Marais, Ely, and Scanlon, MN, and Hancock, MI.. The quiz casts itself in question when it tells me the top ten suitable towns for me in South Dakota for me are Green Valley (61% fit), Rapid Valley, Custer, Brookings, Blackhawk, Deadwood, Groton, Volga, Arlington, and Lead (55%). The only towns in that group in which I would consider buying a house are Brookings, Custer, and Lead (and maybe Deadwood, if I didn’t have to drive up the hill to get groceries in Lead). Maybe the quiz criteria are insufficient… or maybe growing up in Madison (49% fit) permanently inclined me to prefer communities where I don’t quite fit.

The authors explain their methodology and give state averages for each criterion here. As a signal of how hard it is for a state to be all things to all people, the highest average score across all the criteria goes to California, which gets a 6.5 out of 10. Western states get six of the top ten spots (seven, if you count Hawaii as western). Minnesota is our highest-ranking neighbor, tying with D.C., Maryland, and New Jersey for 11th with a 5.6 out of 10. Nebraska and North Dakota tie with Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, and Utah for 18th at 5.4. Montana is in a clump tied for 24th at 5.3. South Dakota and Iowa tie for 30th, alongside Maine and New Hampshire, at 5.2. Wyoming is in a group ranking 35th with 5.1. The hardest state to find a good fit is Mississippi, with an average score of 4.5.

Here’s a summary of ratings on several of the NYT criteria for South Dakota and its six neighboring states, plus the highest and lowest scores nationwide in each criterion:

Criterion SD ND MN IA NE WY MT best worst
Schools 6.6 6.5 6.8 6.1 6.9 5.7 6.4 NE: 6.9 DC: 4.0
Low Crime 5.2 5.3 5.6 5 4 6.2 3.6 NH: 7.9 DC: 0.0
Space for Money 9.2 9.1 8.8 9.3 9.2 8.7 8.6 ND: 9.8 DC: 2.0
Trees 0.6 0 3 1.4 1.3 0.2 1.4 ME: 9.8 ND, NV: 0.0
Restaurants 4.8 5 5.3 4.8 5.9 4.8 4.9 DC: 9.0 VT: 3.7
Live Music 2.5 3.6 4.2 3.2 4.6 1.8 3.2 DC: 8.0 WV: 1.7
Jobs 2.8 3.4 7.2 4.6 4 2.2 3.6 CO, MA: 8.0 WV: 0.5
Income Mobility 8.6 9.9 8.2 7.8 6.9 9.4 7.8 ND: 9.9 DC: 0.0
Health Care 7 8.4 4.5 9.2 7.9 6.5 6.4 RI, VT: 10.0 NV: 0.3
Political Diversity 7.5 3.9 4.2 7.8 8.2 5 5.5 NH, OK: 8.6 DC: 0.0
Racial Diversity 7.8 7.9 8.1 7.1 8.7 7.4 5.9 DC, HI: 10.0 ME: 3.6
Young Adults 7.3 8.6 6.7 6.7 7.9 6.7 6.9 DC: 10.0 ME: 3.6
Parents 6.5 6.7 7.2 6.8 7.9 6.5 5.9 CA, TX, UT: 9.0 VT: 2.5
Retirees 6.5 6.2 6.7 7 7.5 5.4 7 NV: 8.9 VT: 4.6


  1. Joe 2021-11-27 08:35

    I find it hard to believe Nebraska has the best restaurants and live music in the region, and Minnesota the worst health care (by a lot).

  2. Porter Lansing 2021-11-27 09:45

    The quiz required me to have a subscription. Maybe it’s just me because I access NYT too much.
    – Your problem, Cory is that you’ve spent too much time on the prairie and you’ve become set in your ways, as a young middle aged man.
    – It’s obvious, to me, that you’re missing a gigantic opportunity to give your daughter something that will make her a superstar; even more than she’ll be for having such awesome parents.
    – You should sell everything you own and move your family to rural France but not so rural that Paris every weekend isn’t feasible.
    – Don’t limit the child’s spectrum by keeping her in the sticks, where she’ll grow attached to someplace so limiting, like you did.
    – She needs to feel comfortable and at home in a large city, with it’s cultural, intellectual, and recreational offerings.
    – You speak the language and could explore France and Italy, Germany, Netherlands and nurture a young lady that would amaze you beyond your Midwestern outlook and limitations.
    – Be Brave. What would you be missing? Small town whatever?

  3. Edwin Arndt 2021-11-27 10:32

    Porter, perhaps you should learn to speak french and move to France. And you would
    be close to Germany. Germany has really good beer.

  4. Porter Lansing 2021-11-27 10:41

    Edwin is a male, problem solver interested in helping others.

    Such a very, worthy hobby.

    Thank you, for your interest in my welfare.

  5. Porter Lansing 2021-11-27 10:58

    Oh. I get you now, Edwin. You’re razzing me because of the way I criticize Germans, in South Dakota, huh. As if I wouldn’t want to be close to a whole country of stubborn, set in their ways, people without courage to try new things.

    One more time, just for you, my friend.

    The people who moved to SD, for free land, only spoke German. They were actually from Russia, near the Volga River, and had been in Russia for three generations (about 150 years). Russia needed workers and promised Germans (who were poor and had no opportunity to own land) they could keep their language and religion, if they came to Russia, for free land. Russian government changed and the promises to the Volga Germans were abandoned thus they headed for more free stuff in SD. Kinda like what you think of Mexicans today, huh?

    Germans who stayed in Germany prospered and became the ultra-liberal people and country we know today. Nothing like the Volga Germans who moved to South Dakota.

  6. larry kurtz 2021-11-27 12:26

    Montana isn’t on that list of states bordering South Dakota but it has eight month winters just like all the others do so it’s been rejected, too.

    Access to medical care sucks everywhere right now so there’s that. The outstanding restaurants here in New Mexico are myriad but going out right now also sucks. Trees? This property sits in a juniper/piñon chaparral with loads of gambel oak.

    Albuquerque and Rapid City are at the top of the violent crime statistics but ABQ is an hour from here. Political and racial diversity is a given in a state with 23 tribal entities and retirees virtually own Santa Fe County.

    Charter schools abound, jobs and income mobility are there if you’re at least bilingual. During our one month winter every day gets above freezing and Democrats enjoy a super majority in the state’s legislature and in congress.

    Affordable property can still be had, local produce is abundant and energy costs are about average.

    If you’re interested in fleeing the frozen tundra information is available!

  7. Edwin Arndt 2021-11-27 12:26

    Porter, you sly dog you. You found me out. I’m glad you are somewhat versed
    in the Germans from Russia history. Another part of the deal was that they
    didn’t have to serve in the military and they didn’t have to pay taxes.

    My understanding was that Russia had good land but no good farmers,
    Therefore, they appealed to the Germans, who knew how to farm.

  8. Porter Lansing 2021-11-27 12:33

    Exactly what I’ve researched, Edwin.

    So, all this time you’ve called yourself a German, in actuality you’re a Russian.

    Explains my hypotheses about why South Dakota and Edwin Arndt is like it is, with much clarity.

  9. Porter Lansing 2021-11-27 12:39

    As a chef, and frequent visitor to Vermont, I’ll comment on the statistic that VT is worst in restaurants.

    This poll is no doubt referring to the number of restaurants, which is understandably low, due to the rural nature of the state.

    But, without a doubt, the quality of Vermont restaurants is in the top ten of USA.

    Lots of French, white tablecloth establishments with service people who pride themselves in their tasks and make a lifelong career of restaurant service.

  10. Porter Lansing 2021-11-27 12:52

    PS … Rhode Island and Vermont are tops in health care because they’re two of the most socialist states in America. Ahem …

  11. ArloBlundt 2021-11-27 15:06

    Well…there have been times when South Dakota has had great live music and wonderful musicians in all genres…what we lack is good venues for live music and an audience willing to listen to and support music that is even a bit “out of the mainstream” which in South Dakota is any music that isn’t about trucks and whiskey.

  12. Mark Anderson 2021-11-27 17:24

    Edwin Arndt, German beer is overrated. The Belgians know that.

  13. grudznick 2021-11-27 19:11

    Tomorrow, at the Conservatives with Common Sense weekly breakfast, a large quantity of Brussels Belgian Waffles will be available to all comers for no additional charge. Stebbins’ grandson will be on hand to fix them up for you all fancy like. If you want beer with your breakfast, that’s OK too but I’m told that there is little of the German variety available so don’t get your hopes up beyond the usual Busch Light keg that’s in the corner.

  14. Richard Schriever 2021-11-27 21:37

    Porter, my nominally German (speaking) ancestors who moved to SD definitely came from nowhere near Russia. They came from what is now Western Germany (Frisia – half of which is in Germany and half in The Netherlands). But at that time, there was no such nation as “Germany”. There were a hundred or so small prindipalities (like Frisia). The so called “Germans” from Russia were not “Germans” either – but were German SPEAKERS.

  15. Edwin Arndt 2021-11-27 21:40

    Porter, the Russians couldn’t change those stubborn Germans into Russians.
    My maternal grandmother was of the Germans from Russia and came to the
    USA on a boat when she was quite young. Her family first settled in the Bowdle, SD area but then
    moved to the area near Hazen, ND. My paternal grandfather came from

    Mark, back in 1993 my wife and I had the chance to do some traveling
    in Germany. As far as I’m concerned, that beer we actually
    drank in Germany was pretty dang good.

  16. DaveFN 2021-11-27 23:57

    I opt for a more global quality of life index such as found here (there are others).

    The question is, if I’m told I could be living better elsewhere, why aren’t I following up on it? Subjectively, being told the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, alone has little purchase when it comes to change.

    “How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a lightbulb?” “None, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.”

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-28 08:28

    Joe, I agree that the health care ratings suggest a divergence of the quiz from our usual assessment of health care quality. Mayo Clinic, anyone?

    But here’s the quiz methodology on the health care criterion, for your consideration:

    The health care score is based on a county-level rank that measures health care system capacity and resources (in terms of work force and infrastructure), health care costs, per capita spending and public funding, according to selected metrics used in the Covid-19 Community Vulnerability Index and Covid-19 Vaccine Coverage Index. Data was collected and provided by Surgo Ventures [Wezerek and Serkez, 2021.11.23].

    I too puzzle at the restaurant rating. Both Minnesota and Nebraska have large rural expanses where restaurant pickings may be slim, but Minnesota’s great urban hub, the Twin Cities, seems to offer more dining options than the Omaha–Lincoln metroplex.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-28 08:30

    Ah, Paris. It would be interesting to see a global update to this quiz and see how Paris and its banlieues compare.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-28 08:34

    Arlo, yes, we do seem to produce some good musicians, but do those talents arise because South Dakota fosters them or because they persevere against South Dakota’s narrow musical tastes and opportunities? (I suspect that quandary is not unique to South Dakota but exists in any rural area with limited venues and audience tastes.)

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-28 08:34

    [Porter, Edwin, set up your own blog to conduct your ongoing ethnic debate.]

  21. larry kurtz 2021-11-28 08:53

    Oops, my iPhone didn’t see Montana on that list but there it is on my Mac.

  22. grudznick 2021-11-28 09:08

    This study rates the Nebraska food lower than it should because they did not consider the Runza sandwich. The Minnesota health care seems to have accurately hit the mark and not be swayed by artificial bias because of that Mayo place. The liberal bias usually sways weaker minds into thinking all of Minnesota has better health care but they do not.

  23. Joe 2021-11-28 09:17

    Porter Lansing, my Volga German father married a Scotch-Irish dyed in the wool Democrat, they moved to Rapid from Walworth County and started a successful business and family. Be careful of stereotypes, they can bite you in the butt.

  24. mike from iowa 2021-11-28 11:28

    WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 44 key measures of healthcare cost, accessibility, and outcome. The data set ranges from average monthly insurance premium to physicians per capita to share of insured population.

    Minnesota ranked second only to Massachusetts on the list. North Dakota came in 5th, Iowa 8th, and South Dakota 10th.

    Health Care in South Dakota (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

    8th – Hospital Beds per Capita

    5th – Physician Medicare-Acceptance Rate

    28th – % of At-Risk Adults with No Routine Doctor Visit in Past Two Years

    20th – % of Adults with No Dental Visit in Past Year

    21st – % of Medical Residents Retained

    For the full report: check out Wallet Hub. Looks like Minnesota is the place for healthcare in the Midwest and across the country, irrespective of grudzilla’s gravy fueled, intoxicated yapping.

  25. Porter Lansing 2021-11-28 12:00

    @ Joe – Just because it’s a “stereotype” doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  26. ArloBlundt 2021-11-28 14:42

    Cory–Why does (or did) South Dakota produce such good musicians?? I have two disconnected answers. One is Elementary and Secondary Music Education in our schools…communities in South Dakota take great pride in their music programs and as music talent knows no limitation bu class, income, or other circumstance but is broadly distributed among the population, if schools provide opportunity, talented musicians will emerge. Secondly: the legalization of 3.2 beer in the past created hundreds of venues in road houses, sleazy dives, dance halls , and clubs which allowed, a generation ago, a large number of amateur and semi pro “garage” bands to form and perform…the state is full of guitar players who pass on an appreciation for making music to the younger generation. Making music and listening to music being made, is one of life’s greatest joys.

  27. grudznick 2021-11-28 16:10

    We have rhythm. Mr. Blundt, and we have soul. And the dancing we did in roadhouses, and I’m talking about grudznick and his good friend Bob here, was of an epic nature that really made the bands want to play even more to see us dance. I’m just sayin…

  28. Porter Lansing 2021-11-28 18:54

    Why does (or did) South Dakota produce such good musicians?

    GOOGLE: Grammy award winners from South Dakota

    2018 – In their debut recording, the South Dakota Chorale performs the rarely recorded “organ version” of Duruflé’s Requiem, using the French-influenced Bedient organ of First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls, SD.

    Anyone know of another?

  29. ArloBlundt 2021-11-28 22:04

    Porter…yes, I believe Dan Donahue, Sioux Falls and Zero Ted, who is a session musician in Nashville has played on at least one Emmy winning Record. maybe more….Susan Osborne, Worthington Minnesota and Vermillion, sang on recordings by the Paul Winter Consort and I believe the album Common Ground received an Emmy…Susan became a big star in Japan, of all places, and received many recording industry awards there. Previously she played with Garden, Rosewater, Dry Mustard, Red Willow and had an extensive solo career in South Dakota. If you ever saw her perform you would never forget her. Chris Gage and Kenny Putnam of Red Willow, have not as yet received Emmy’s but Chris is a producer and records with his wife in Austin Texas. The last time I saw him on Television he was leading the band on Austin City Limits. He also plays guitar for Jerry Jeff Walker’s band on tour. Mike Connor Sioux Falls, originally with Those of Us, Kid Sparrow, and Mid Life Crises has played for South Dakotans for over 50 years. He and many others put together the Acoustic Christmas Show which played in cities around the state for 20 years, putting the spotlight on talented South Dakota musicians. Boyd Bristow, of Blue Berry Buckle and East of Westerville is a record producer and performer in many venues in Sioux Falls…he teamed with Denny Westphal for many years and did a stint with Red Willow. There are many, many more wonderful musicians playing in South Dakota including Hank Harris, DD and the Phayroes and Red Willow also a single performer, the underappreciated Kenny Miller of Deadwood, of course Williams and Ree and the Hegg Brothers, and the late Rick Jacobson of Deadwood one of the most accomplished musicians in the country. Emmys are for recording and, with our dearth of facilities and our distance from the music centers, not much of a measurement of South Dakota talent. These musicians are fundamentally performers and need to be appreciated as such. What’s significant is that all I have mentioned were playing for drinks and smiles in places like Dan’s Back Porch, the Varsity, Grease City and Custer’s Stone Canyon Bar in the early 70’s. A trip to the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,Sioux Falls, is well worth the time.

  30. Porter Lansing 2021-11-29 09:39

    Thank you for the memories, Arlo.

    I’ve heard and spoken with Zero Ted and Susan Osborn; been often to the Varsity and Bomb Swan’s Grease City.

    In a list of “Best Performer From Each State” Susan Osborn was SD’s best.

    And the late Barry Carpenter, original drummer for Red Willow was a close friend and classmate at Watertown.

  31. bearcreekbat 2021-11-29 10:29

    When talking about SD musicians don’t forget the Black Hills own James Van Nuys, an extraordinary guitarist and artist. He put together the area’s 1st (as far I know) blues band in the mid-1980’s – the Only Choice Blues Band, which played blues classics. Van Nuys also skillfully brought back amazing solo work on the ideas of relatively obscure country blues artists like Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell, etc, etc, along with the music of great ragtime artists like Scott Joplin. His creativity seemed boundless with his own tunes, such as Half Rag, a very complex ragtime number, and Hill City to Keystone, his own “train song.” Van Nuys also helped provide venues for numberous other talented local musicians. Van Nuys is still performing blues, jazz, and wonderful music today and he certainly deserves statewide recognition.

  32. ArloBlundt 2021-11-29 11:52

    BCB–Nominate him for the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame….there were some earlier blues bands in the 70’s..R and B Supply from Sioux Falls being one that comes to mind….and we haven’t even talked about horn players and horn bands…Flandreau had more horn players per capita than any town in America.

  33. Donald Pay 2021-11-29 11:59

    One of the better musician from South Dakota is Haley, who I knew as Haley Bonar. I heard Haley as an open mic performer in Rapid City in the 1990s. At the time she was a teenager. My daughter sang with her in the RC Central choir, so I’ve followed her career from Rapid to Duluth to the Twin Cities. She’s so talented as a musician and songwriter.

    Below is a link to an article about her. The article an embedded song (about leaving Rapid City) from one of her CDs.

  34. ArloBlundt 2021-11-29 12:37

    Donald==Haley was very popular musician in Duluth and Twin Cities and sings the theme song in the movie Sweet son played in her band and she may yet win an Emmy…Porter’s admiration for Susan Osborn is shared by a generation of now aging South Dakotans.she has recorded several albums……and we haven’t talked about drummers and bassists either…Barry Carpenter and Milbank’s Marley Foreman were the rhythm section for Red Willow for 50 years, Marley succeeding the immensely talented Tom Peterson., of Spink.

  35. Porter Lansing 2021-11-29 12:40

    Arlo. Are you sure you mean EMMY?
    Emmy’s are for television. Grammy’s are for music.

  36. Porter Lansing 2021-11-29 12:43

    Barry Carpenter’s suicide, last year, knocked the pins from under me.

    He was the most popular kid in school, son of the music teacher in High School, loved by every female in school, charismatic, eloquent, and talented.

  37. ArloBlundt 2021-11-29 16:25

    Porter..I was told he was very ill with cancer…the last time I saw him he told a hilarious story about being on the road with Red Willow…my point in bringing this up is that musicians come from all kinds of backgrounds…Rick Jacobson, an awesomely talented multi instrumentalist grew up near Castle Rock, north of Newell, Al Slaathaug who’s played bass in Blue Berry Buckle and still plays around Sioux Falls grew up in Wendt, west of Fort Pierre..a fella whose name escapes me founded the band “The Cavaliers” in Arlington/Lake Norden and ended up as music director for the largest Casinos in Las Vegas. Musicians are born but need a sound music education in school and from peers, and the opportunity to play for appreciative audiences. Winning a Grammy is like getting hit by lightning…you have to go where its raining. Sorry about my Emmy error, I, too, am showing my age.

  38. Donald Pay 2021-11-29 17:03

    Another great musicians from South Dakota that died of suicide was Christy Lee Anderson. She was originally from Tuscon, Arizona, and a basketball star in Tuscon. Multi-talented, she decided to pursue music, gigged around the country, liked the Black Hills and settled there. She played with a lot of people, including Ricky Jacobson and Hank Harris, wrote some decent songs (“A Night Like This”, was my favorite), got married, had kids, gig solo, cut a CD, then something, I don’t know what, went wrong, and she killed herself.

  39. larry kurtz 2021-11-29 17:35

    Christy Lee Anderson taped up her garage door and drank a fifth of Scotch with her car running because she was married to an abusive contractor who hated his own life so profoundly she lost all hope. Living in Belle Fourche will do that to you. Ricky Jacobsen starved himself to death because he couldn’t stay away from the poker table.

  40. grudznick 2021-11-29 18:12

    I enjoy the Back Porch. If my good friend Mr. Dale were to drink beer with grudznick, it would be at the Back Porch.

    Everybody loves Williams and Ree, who never played at the Back Porch, or the Barbarian, as far as I know.

  41. larry kurtz 2021-11-29 18:23

    Watching Don Frankenfeld go down on Dale Bell at the Back Porch was never easy.

  42. grudznick 2021-11-29 19:22

    I bet that was an ordeal that truly mess up your brain, Lar. Did you ever film it?

  43. ArloBlundt 2021-11-29 20:13

    Thanks, Larry for a look and listen to Brandon Sprague…I knew the Sprague brothers of an older generation, (my generation) so I can say Brandon’s roots are in Zeona. I was Rick Jacobson’s English teacher and drama coach in Newell…how gifted was he??? He played the lead role of Cervantes in the play Man of La Mancha, was on stage for 2 and a half hours straight, sang eleven songs, four solo, and had over 200 lines of long and shot speech…he nailed it with less than a month of rehearsal…the faculty considered him a problem student?? whats the problem? Just give him a challenge.

  44. cathy 2021-11-29 23:08

    I took the quiz–clicked on only the things that really matter to me and ignored the rest. So many of the criteria just aren’t important to me. The top 100 locations (80% or better) were almost all small towns in the SE quarter of Missouri (there were a few random Ohio towns). The #3 choice (91%) is a town near St. Louis where my brother and several old high school friends retired to. I grew up in St. Louis and SE Missouri is one of my favorite places, so the results of the quiz were interesting.

  45. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-11-30 08:38

    Cathy, that’s a really interesting localized result achieved through minimal criteria. I agree that a lot of the criteria in the quiz don’t enter my top ten for picking a home. Instead of restaurants and live music, I’d like filters for bicycle trails, bookstores, and neighborhood grocery stores.

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