I dismissed it as more fake news, or possibly a satirical headline written by The Onion.
But then I saw it again, and it was referencing a study conducted by the well-respected US News & World Report.
In fact, this same headline about California’s dubious rating was being reported by just about every media outlet across the country. Ludicrous as it sounded to anyone who actually LIVES in the Golden State, my curiosity got the best of me, so I clicked and read the entire article.
My conclusion? They’re flat-out crazy.
In fact, California should rank right at the top of any list for quality of life in the U.S.
Before I make that case, let me rewind and tell you a little more about this news story.
U.S. News & World Report released their annual study based on two years of data and 30,000 respondents, in the end ranking all 50 states for several factors and revealing the best state in the U.S. to live.
When they added it all up, Iowa ranked #1 as the winner. Let that sink in.
Second was Minnesota, and the rest of the top five went like this:
4. North Dakota
5. New Hampshire
To be clear, the study didn’t conclude that California was the WORST state to live in, just that it ranked dead last for criteria number 8 on the following list of factors, quality of life.
The survey’s categories were:
1. Health Care
6. Crime & Corrections
7. Fiscal Stability
8. Quality of Life
Overall, California ranked #32 (which still isn't that hot), way behind perennial hot spots like New Jersey (#19) and Nebraska (#15). Riddle me this: when was the last time someone said, "I really want to move to New Jersey," or wrote a song about Nebraska?
(For the record, there are 583 songs about California and only one, Bruce Springsteen’s curious ‘Nebraska’ about the state with that name.)
Earning dead last overall as the best place to live was Louisiana, with Mississippi #49 and New Mexico #48.
But let’s refocus on the topic making headlines: California ranking #50 for quality of life. North Dakota won top honors, with Minnesota #2 and Wisconsin #3.
Dubious choices, at best. So, how was the quality of life determined? The scores were based on two meta-categories: social environment (50% of the score) and physical environment (the other 50%).
According to their study, Social Environment includes:
1. Community engagement
2. Social support
3. Voter participation
The first two items make perfect sense, as they polled how often respondents engaged in community events as well as spent time with family and friends.
“In addition to a healthy environment, a person’s quality of life is largely a result of their interactions with those around them,” explains the U.S. News & World Report editors. “Studies show that when people feel socially supported, they experience greater happiness, as well as physical and mental health.”
But voter participation as means to measure social environment? They just measured the average voter turnout for the 2016 congressional and presidential elections and used that outcome.
When it comes to social environment, Alaska, Montana and North Dakota were at the top of this list.
The next factor is Natural Environment, which includes:
Drinking water quality
Total toxic chemical pollution per square mile.
Risk of chronic, long-term health effects due to pollution
Understandably, places like LA (and even Sacramento Valley during allergy season) may drag down the air quality index, but I can’t envision the great state of California, with all of its national parks and natural wonders, being such an atrocious place to enjoy the great outdoors?
But while California did represent in the ‘economy' category (#4 in the U.S.), it also was #46 in citizen opportunity, #43 in fiscal stability, and, like we mentioned ad nauseam, #50 in quality of life.
Of course, California is a big place, and you rarely hear people complain about how terrible their quality of life is in San Diego, how un-social it is in LA, or how the natural environment is lacking in San Francisco.
As for our own local Greater Sacramento area, there’s a whole lot going for us – right here at home and also nearby – that speaks to an amazing quality of life:
• San Francisco and the Bay Area is an easy drive or train ride away.
• Incredible pro sports like the Warriors, 49ers, Raiders (if you consider them incredible!), A’s, Giants, Sacramento Kings, and the like.
• Napa Valley and some of the best wine (and wine country) in the world.
• Lake Tahoe!
• Speaking of which, we have some of the best skiing, snowboarding, etc. in the U.S. right in Tahoe.
• Unlimited hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and nature-loving in NorCal.
• Some of the best of California history in and around Sacramento.
• Plenty of sunny, warm weather but also the chance to see the seasons change.
• Easily affordable real estate compared to prices in the rest of the state!
• A fast-growing economy, rapid redevelopment, and outstanding Sacramento civic pride!
• Some of the friendliest, coolest, and most friends and neighbors people in the world!
Come to think of it, I'm starting a new poll and, according to this guy, California ranks #1 in Quality of Life in the entire U.S.!