Home » Books »Local Business » Currently Reading:

St. Louis Region Drops Again in Forbes Ranking

July 26, 2006 Books, Local Business 14 Comments

This year St. Louis ranked 31st among 40 metropolitan areas as “Best Places for Singles” according to Forbes magazine. Our best ranking was 14th in 2001 but since then we’ve continued to sink in the rankings, now falling into the bottom 10. It should be noted this is for the metropolitan area of St. Louis, not simply the City of St. Louis.

St. Louis on ForbesTo simplify things I compiled the chart, at left, showing where the St. Louis region ranks overall and in their various categories. As you can see we’ve been steadily dropping in the overall rankings since 2001. But a closer look reveals the good and the bad.

Below are each of the subcategories with the Forbes methodology in italics, followed by my thoughts on each.


To determine the best city for singles, we ranked 40 of the largest continental U.S. metropolitan centers in seven different areas: nightlife, culture, job growth, number of singles, cost of living alone, coolness, and for the first time, online dating. Each metro is assigned a ranking of one to 40 in each category, based on quantitative data. All categories are weighted equally, with the exception of the number of singles, which received a double weighting. The ranks are then averaged to determine the final rankings.

We’ve got a lot of great things going on in the City of St. Louis right now with lofts and new restaurants and trendy bowling alleys opening but our region, we must accept, is boring. We are a region of “comfortable” suburban housing mixed with sterile office parks connected by massive highways. Tax base aside, the region is pretty much a drain on the City of St. Louis.


Our cultural index is determined by the number of museums, pro sports teams and live theater and concert venues per capita, as well as the university population, in each metro. Data provided by AOL CityGuide and Montreal International.

I’ve yet to consider pro sports as having anything to do with “culture” but that is only one part of this criteria. This is the one section where we’ve been the most consistent over the years. Phoenix ranked #1.


Nightlife is based on the number of restaurants, bars and nightclubs per capita in each standard metropolitan area. Data provided by AOL CityGuide.

This is a category where we are doing a lot of ups and downs from year to year. From the information provided I’m not sure if this is because our data is changing or if other city’s data is changing and thus moving everyone around in the rankings. Most likely it is a combination of both. Cincinnati ranked #1.


The number of singles is based on the percentage of a metro’s population above the age of 15 that has never been married. Given the importance of this data, the singles category carries twice the weight of any other category. Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Per the rankings this just isn’t a singles region, or perhaps many have been previously married. No surprise but New York ranked #1.

Job Growth:

Job growth rankings are determined by the projected percentage of job growth over the next five years for each metro. Data provided by Washington, D.C.-based Woods & Poole Economics.

Now we are getting to the real issue. Our job growth in this region sucks big time! The region must come together to evaluate why this is true and what are possible solutions. The old guard will continue to cite another bridge over the Mississippi River and other nonsense that simply keeps the politically connected sprawl machine working. While the city’s earnings tax may keep business out of the city, I’m not sure it would have an impact on the region’s job growth numbers. Whatever the reasons, this must be addressed. Las Vegas ranked #1.

Cost Of Living Alone:

Our proprietary Cost Of Living Alone index is determined by the average cost of a metro area’s apartment rent, a Pizza Hut pizza, a movie ticket and a six-pack of Heineken. Additionally, we factored in entry-level salary data. The majority of the raw data for the cost of living index was provided by Arlington, Va.-based ACCRA. Salary data provided by the New York-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

Ouch! I’m guessing here but I’d say our entry-level salaries have not kept pace with the average apartment rental rates. Either that or Pizza Hut has had to dramatically raise prices in St. Louis to cover the cost of hiring Queen Latifa for their commercials. Seriously though, while many may not think so I do believe we are building ourselves into a situation of higher and higher living costs relative to our incomes. Salaries simply have not kept pace with the increased property values, at least in the city. This is reflected in some very costly cities ranking ahead of us, including Seattle, NYC and San Francisco. Atlanta ranked #1.

Online Dating:

Due to the increasing popularity of online dating, we added this new measure to our methodology this year. The ranking is determined by the number of active profiles in each metro, per capita, on dating site Match.Com. Data provided by www.match.com.

OK everyone, get online so we can move up in the rankings for 2007. Yeah, right…. Boston ranked #1.


Coolness is determined by an area’s diversity and its number of creative workers (i.e., those whose jobs require creativity, such as artists, scientists, teachers and musicians). Kevin Stolarick, of Catalytix and Carnegie Mellon University, provided the data based on work he has done with Richard Florida, of George Mason University, and Gary Gates, of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

This is the one that shocked me, the ranking being much higher than I expected.

So what do you see in the numbers? Or what are they missing about our region that can’t be quantified?

– Steve


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Becker says:

    Well you always have to take these magazine rankings with a grain of salt but….

    Given the method they claimed to have used I imagine that the coolness factor was high due to the biotech jobs that I suspect Florida considers to be creative (and I’d agree).

    I like Phoenix, but the most cultured city in the country???? Something isn’t right with that methodology.

  2. travis reems says:

    I would guess that our numbers would do much better if they took the county out of our population numbers, and much much better if the east side was left out. With the relatively low population in the City, as compared to the entire metro, and with many services, attractions, and the like in the city, it would bolster the numbers if they considered the city alone.

  3. who pays? says:

    If a city street tree is blown down, causing property damage, who is financially responsible?

  4. Your Virtual Alderman says:

    Claims of city street trees causing property damage are referred to the City Counselor’s office.

    (Note: Your Virtual Alderman apologizes for following this thread in a tangent direction.)

  5. Brian S. says:

    Our drop in this ranking is perfectly correlated with my courtship and subesquent engagement of my soon-to-be wife.

    Sorry, everyone.

    Having visited Cincinnati on several occasions, their nightlife is pretty sad. I don’t see how they can be ranked #1.

    I also don’t see how our cost of living has gone from #2-#1-#3 to near the bottom of the list in only a few short years.

    These lists are ridiculous.

  6. RL'E says:

    If Forbes had actually paid someone to come and VISIT St. Louis and do actual physical research here, then I would give what they said some, and only some, credibility! BUT they hire firms to give them DATA and then they analyze or did I miss something?

    Forbes really missed something when it did its Best Real Estate Investment issue back in the spring…they listed 63113 as one of the best markets and 63143 as one of the worst! They only looked at statistical data and did not look at the conditions that caused the data to appear as it did. In both cases they were way off the mark.


    There is a big part of me that no longer cares what the rest of the world thinks about St. Louis. I have lived in two other major cities and I cannot compare them to St. Louis (one was New York, no comparision!,and the other St. Paul/Minneapolis, also very different, newer development.)

    I can say that my quality of life is good here and I have never had a problem getting a date 😉

    St. Louis is the kind of a place where you can “be your own Henry Shaw”, meaning if you want to do something the only thing that is stopping you is yourself. Look around and see how we are surrounded by a multitude of entrepreneurs!

    I invited Forbes to come to St. Louis and visit the zip codes they rated but they declined…


  7. Jim Zavist says:

    Hey people, these surveys always come up with different answers. We know that St. Louis is a pretty good place to, or we wouldn’t be here. Statistics can be easily manipulated to create some pretty strange answers. Just look at the stats on the power outages on the Post-Dispatch website. Some zip codes are still showing 100% of their reported outages as unrepaired after five days. Dig deeper, and it’s only one or two properties – resources are wisely being deployed to address outages in areas with many more reports . . .

  8. Jeff says:

    I don’t think that survey deserves this much discussion.

    And anyway, what single consults FORBES in making any decision on where to live?

  9. Phoenix is probably the most suburban City in the country. They have so much concrete, that the temperature does not decrease at night.

    I would have to agree that outside St. Louis City, and a few inner ring suburbs, this is pretty much correct. Missouri, in general, completely sucks.

    Until we stop the sprawl, and endless sea of strip malls, and big box development, only St. Louis City will have any coolness.

  10. oakland says:

    On the “cost of living” metric:

    How in the hell did San Francisco, NYC, and San Diego, beat St. Louis out? Rent on a 2-bedroom apartment in those cities rivals the average monthly salary in St. Louis.

  11. LisaS says:

    My husband & I just finished a discussion of the similar Money list (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2006/), where St. Louis also fared poorly. In fact, cities in general fared poorly–our joke is that the best places to live are where there are lots of rich people and nothing to do except drive around and go on vacation. (seriously, one of the Money factors was the average amount of money people spent on vacations–on gettting OUT of town….)

    None of them seem to consider:

    Cost of cultural attractions: visiting Phoenix’s Art Museum costs $24 for my family of 4. The Phoenix Zoo (close to Scottsdale, which is in the Money top 10) costs $40 for a family of 4. Having cultural attractions that are affordable only as “special occassion” visits doesn’t add much to quality of life. We attend more free concerts (at the Botanical Garden, Live on the Levee, etc.) than $60 per ticket events. This was one of the reasons we moved here in the first place–we could afford to have a cultural life on entry-level salaries.

    Walkable/transit connected communities: much more humane and affordable.

    Real quality of life issues: walkability is one; diversity is another. Money’s list factors crime as the only quality of life issue. While Napierville, IL may have little crime, I don’t want to live there because your quality of life is really based on the quality of the interior of your car.

    Basically, I’ve decided that these lists are good because nobody really knows how great it is to live here.

  12. Anne Tick says:

    ‘Coolness’ sounds like a factor I would have considered when I was picking which city I wanted to go to college in. Of course, if being a scientist makes me cool, maybe I should have picked a different major…

  13. jeff says:

    But would you have consider FORBES an arbiter of coolness?

    They people that actaully want to live in a cool place won’t be looking at FORBES. And those that do wouldn’t probably know cool if it blasted them in the face.

    If you wanted to know about average starting incomes or cost of living, then Forbes might be a good place to look.

  14. jeff says:

    …and don’t the “Singles” category and the “Online Dating” category kind of cancel each other out? If you have a ton of people with profiles on online dating sites, wouldn’t that indicate that other avenues of meeting singles aren’t working out very well?


Comment on this Article: