Minnesota — and the region — ranks high in future livability

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2013 - 10:22 AM

Minnesota – and the region – will likely keep its highly ranked livability in the future.

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Water resources keep Minnesota at the top of livability rankings, even in 2032, according to a Gallup study.

Photo: Jim Gehrz , Star Tribune

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If you think it’s great to live in Minnesota now, just wait a couple of decades.

The West North Central region (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas) are projected to be the No. 1 place to live in 2032, according to a recent Gallup analysis.

The study ranked areas by 13 metrics, including economic, workplace and community factors as well as personal choices.

Access to clean, safe water is one category where we rated highest (along with full-time employment and economic confidence).

St. Paul futurist Joel Barker, who was not associated with the study, said that water access should carry even more weight in ranking, rather than being one of the 13 equally weighted categories. “The water issue should be looked at much more carefully,” said Barker, author of “Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future.” “Keep in mind: Nothing else happens if you don’t have water,” he said.

The strong showing for this neck of the woods did not surprise Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Based on “what we already knew about the well-being of individual states, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota are frequently at the top and considered elite well-being states,” he said.

He agreed with Barker that water availability has become an increasingly important factor.

“Globally, water availability is becoming serious issue, a conflict-creating issue in some instances,” he said.

“When we went over the list of all the metrics, there was widespread agreement that clean and safe water has earned its way onto that list.”

Although Barker was surprised that climate change was not included in the study, another forward-looking writer, Dan Buettner of Minneapolis, praised the methodology.

“Gallup is the best organization in the country, arguably the world, in thinking about authentic happiness,” said Buettner, author of “Blue Zones” and “Thrive.”

“The traditional maxim is that GDP and other economic factors have been benchmarks, so the fact that they’re also looking at smoking, joblessness, obesity is great.”

One facet of the future that Buettner believes should get more attention is equality, but he frames it more around attitude than wealth. And he gives his home state high marks there.

“In Minnesota,” he said, “we do a really good job of looking at each other and saying, ‘You know, you’re no better than anyone else,’ and I think that’s a healthy idea to propagate.”

So where did the West North Central (WNC) region fare less well?

Some surprising areas, at least for Witters.

For one, we’re not as optimistic as we perhaps should be.

“In ‘future life evaluation,’ the life that you think you’re going to have five years from now, [WNC] was seventh out of the nine regions,” Witters said.

The other is smoking status. “About 20.5 percent of adult Americans smoke. In your region, it was 22 percent, and that ranked sixth.”

And of course, as Buettner admitted, “We’re never going to be able to completely beat the weather.”

Still, the outlook is so good that we may have to update the old saying to: “We will like it here.”

Bill Ward • 612-673-7643

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