Friday, March 23, 2012

Nashville enjoys "livability" ranking based on a narrow definition of "livability"

You see it everywhere. The increasing divide between matters of sustainability and environmentalism on the one hand and wealth/poverty polarization on the other. Both sides concern questions of what make communities livable, but the divide seems to grow, especially as those progressives concerned with the environment start from class-specific points on livability without considering economic disparity as a brake on livability.

The world's largest car sharing club recently commissioned a study of 36 cities and ranked them for the urban policies that contribute to livability based on the criteria of innovation, sustainability, vibrancy, safety, efficiency, and optimism. Take lists with a grain of salt to begin with, because they generally suit our proclivities to order and list more than they reveal immutable truths about things, but Nashville came out with a relatively high overall ranking of 16.

However, before we go patting ourselves on the back for a score, we should consider the factors that the data published failed to include in the study. Any ranking of cities based on the question of livability policy matters cannot be reliable if they do not factor in delivery of social services, levels of diversity, and opportunities for livable wages. Zipcar's data is limited and biased from that side. So, would Nashville's high ranking stand up to broader studies that crossed the class-based divide between progressives' views on livability?

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