A Forbes article by Kurt Badenhausen recently named Miami America's most miserable city. In my first post for this blog, I pointed out that Miami is plagued by low income, high poverty rates, and political corruption. These systemic problems mirror the factors that Forbes considered when rating "misery" in American cities.
While I won't argue with statistics, I reject the idea that one can use them to measure misery. "The most famous way to gauge misery is the Misery Index developed by economist Arthur Okun in the 1960s, which combines unemployment and inflation," says Badenhausen. The Misery Index? As I see it, something as amorphous as city-wide misery can't be accurately measured.
The Forbes article goes on to list the "less weighty" factors in the study: "commute times, weather, and how the area's pro sports teams did." First things first. I consider weather a primary, not a secondary factor. People -- be they successful or unemployed -- experience weather every day. While corrupt politicians may tick me off, they don't affect my daily mood in the way that weather does. People can oust politicians, as Miamians did when they voted overwhelmingly to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, but they can't oust Mother Nature. There's a reason people continue moving down here despite the lower wages. Just saying.
On to sports teams. Badenhausen concedes that the Miami Heat has "brought Florida sports fans much joy" but adds that "the rest of the Miami pro sports scene is pure misery, with the Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, and Florida Panthers all among the worst teams in their respective sports last year." One year of failed sports teams equals misery? Granted, the Miami Dolphins have sucked for a long time, but the Miami Marlins (formerly the Florida Marlins) have only been around since 1993 and have won two World Series championships so far. I wouldn't call that miserable. As for the Florida Panthers, this is the tropics; many of us forget we even have a hockey team. I don't mean this as a slight on the sport or its fans, but having a crappy hockey team isn't forcing many Miamians into therapy. Why is success of sports teams one of the ten factors in the first place? Badenhausen, who covers business of sports for Forbes, has likely overemphasized athletics in his study.
While certain factors are overemphasized, others are sidestepped altogether. In his statistical findings, Badenhausen makes no mention of entertainment, or cultural events, or cuisine. I take free yoga lessons three times a week in a beautiful outdoor setting next to Biscayne Bay. In the last two weeks alone, I attended a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, enjoyed an amazing flamenco show with free wine and tapas at a new Spanish restaurant, and jammed to local band Suenalo at Coral Gables' monthly Art in the Park event. Altogether, I spent less than $10.
The Forbes article makes it sound like only sports stars and celebrities can live it up in Miami, while the rest of us are left to lament our miserable lives: "If you're among the 75% of households with an annual income under $75,000, [Miami] can be a hard place." I make a whole lot less than $75,000 and commute 45 minutes to work every day, but I'm not miserable. Most of my friends are educators who aren't raking in the dough, but they're not miserable either.
I don't deny that Miami has its problems, nor do I presume that my experience of Miami is representative of the overall population, yet I'm positive that Forbes' assessment of the city's "misery" level is skewed at best. I suspect that the same is true of other cities on the list. For all its foibles, Miami is a dynamic place to live. At the very least, it certainly doesn't suck.