Finding the Next Nashville: The Local Determinants of Quality of Life and How They Attract Jobs and Residents

 In Research

By Matthew E. Kahn and Mac McComas | Research sponsored by Alex. Brown Realty, Inc.

People and businesses decide where to live and locate based on a wide variety of factors. While each individual decision is personal and unique, some themes will be common across parties. Local quality of life plays an important role in attracting people and firms and retaining them over time. Metropolitan areas with a high quality of life will have a competitive edge over those areas that lag behind. What determines local quality of life and which attributes have been associated with population and employment growth over the last decade in the U.S.?

Despite San Francisco’s high cost of living, it continues to have a large portion of America’s economic activity because it has a high quality of life that features a beautiful environment, a temperate climate, numerous recreation opportunities, and some of the best dining and entertainment in the nation. Cities that improve their quality of life, provide good job opportunities, and have a low cost of living will experience increased competition for real estate as people seek to live there and businesses seek to locate there. However, identifying these places before their economic booms can be difficult.

This report is the second in a series (Finding the Next Nashville) that examines recent trends that could be contributing to the success of metropolitan areas and cities across the U.S. In this report, we focus on how a variety of local factors contribute to quality of life and how those factors are associated with subsequent employment and population growth. We examine the relationship between the growth of large metropolitan areas between 2010 and 2019 and local determinants including salary, adjusted cost of living, access to job markets, commute times, weather, the environment, access to parks, safety, local consumption opportunities, and health outcomes.

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