Is the Inland Empire shedding its cheap-living image and getting ready to compete with its coastal brethren in terms of livability?
Gallup’s annual “well-being” rankings for the nation’s metropolitan areas are out and there’s a shrinking gap in the perception of lifestyle quality between Los Angeles and Orange counties and the Inland Empire.
L.A.-O.C. came in 53rd out of 189 metros this year – sandwiched in the rankings between Houston and Charlotte. That’s not bad company, but it’s down from No. 40 a year ago.
The Inland Empire came in at 73rd, between Nashville and Boise. What’s more noteworthy is the new ranking is up from 93rd for the previous year.
So, the perception gap between Southern California’s coastal counties and the Inland neighbors – 53 ranking spots for 2015 –has been sliced by more than half to 20 in 2016.
Why do blue states rank better than red in livability?
Gallup’s livability ranking is more touchy-feely than other quality-of-city scorecards. This “well-being index” is based on the firm’s constant polling of American adults’ feelings on five regional attributes: the sense of daily purpose; the social climate; financial opportunities; community pride; and local health.
I like this poll’s logic as its results have a discerning eye for what’s good and bad about California living.
In 2016, California had seven metros in the top 25 – Santa Cruz (third); San Luis Obispo (seventh); Santa Barbara (12th); Santa Rosa (17th); Salinas (19th); San Diego (22nd); and Visalia (25th) – and three in the bottom 25 – Chico (183rd); Bakersfield (172nd) and Stockton (166th).
It’s worth a moment to see what Gallup’s measurement of well-being says about gap between L.A.-O.C. and the Inland Empire.
On this national scale, both regions have relatively good rankings for a local sense of purpose and roughly equal mid-range scores for financial considerations.
L.A.-O.C.’s No. 18 ranking for healthy lifestyle may have beaten the Inland Empire, but a 43rd place finish is very respectable. Conversely, both regions scored poorly for sense of community.
The most noteworthy gap was in terms of social qualities that Gallup defined as “having supportive relationships and love in your life.” L.A.-O.C. won this ranking battle easily, 73rd to 134th. Perhaps the Inland Empire suffering from being a place where people move but consequently have fewer family ties.
The Inland Empire used to be just about cheap housing and a tough commute toward coastal jobs centers. With Riverside and San Bernardino now growing their own employment base, Gallup results show the livability gap is decidedly narrowing.
Perhaps some day soon, the “909” will be an equal brand.