After ‘a very hard year,’ DC edges up US News Best Places to Live rankings

While D.C.’s spot only changed a little, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge effect on U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best Places to Live list.

The District edged up from No. 30 last year to No. 28 on the list released Tuesday, while Boulder, Colorado, topped the list.

Devon Thorsby, U.S. News’ real estate editor, told WTOP the list was compiled on statistics on the cost of living, the job market, health care, schools, crime rates and commuting, as well as surveys gauging people’s desire to live in or move to a certain place. And it was D.C.’s job market — the best in the nation, Thorsby said — that kept it afloat.


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“The government positions and office positions, which were easier to transfer to work-from-home roles when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, really helped keep Washington from seeing unemployment reach levels that a lot of other major cities faced throughout 2020 and into this year as well,” Thorsby said.

The loss of jobs was key to some epic tumbles: Boston fell 13 spots to No. 31, while San Diego plummeted 52 spots to No. 97. In both cases, the loss of jobs was key.

And places dependent on tourism took major hits as well — Honolulu fell 42 spots to No. 113, while Las Vegas tumbled 50 spots to No. 137.

“2020 was a very hard year,” Thorsby said. She hoped that as vaccinations allow cities to reopen and people to resume traveling, the most disrupted cities will be able to recover.

Thorsby said U.S. News changes up the survey every year, as well as the weighting they give scores in different categories, to make sure the poll reflects what people consider most important when choosing a city to live in. And for this year’s survey, they saw some changed priorities.

“We do see the data reflect a lot of things,” she said. “Desirability for maybe the most crowded major cities drops a bit this year.”

She said it was possible that desire will bounce back in the next few years, but then again, a different U.S. News survey indicates it might not.

The survey wasn’t used in compiling the Best Places to Live list, but Thorsby said it found “a third of Americans say that the pandemic has changed their preference for where to live,” and that “over 11% said that they have relocated or plan to relocate, at least temporarily, due to reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“And of those who indicated that they’ve relocated, or plan to,” she added, “over 57% say that they’ll move from a population that’s more dense to a less populated area.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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