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Best predictor of a city’s growth is its average January temperature

With the cold winter that we’ve had in Toronto this year I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve, on occasion, wondered why I haven’t moved somewhere warmer. There aren’t any great mountains nearby, so it’s not like I’m putting up with this cold in order to feed my love of snowboarding.

Then yesterday, I was reading The Urbanophile blog and I was reminded of a fascinating finding from Edward Glaeser’s book, Triumph of the City: climate matters when it comes to cities and prosperity.

In fact (from New York Magazine):

The single variable that best predicts a U.S. city’s growth over the past century is its average January temperature. Hence the decline of many northern and midwestern cities and the boom in the South and the Sun Belt, where the Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas metropolitan areas have each gained a million people since 2000. For every five degrees that a city’s January temperatures top the national average, Glaeser writes, its real-estate prices will beat the national mean by 3 percent, thanks to the increased demand.

But not all cold places are bleeding people. New York isn’t. And neither is Toronto. The Toronto area accepts roughly 100,000 new people every year. We have more cranes up in the air than any other city in North America. But it’s cold as all hell here. So what gives?

As the New York Magazine article (cited above) points out, New York essentially offers enough benefits to offset its cold winters. There are enough amenities and economic opportunities to make people put up with the bad. And we’re not just talking about weather.

A lot global cities–New York, London and so on–are crowded, expensive and somewhat impractical places to live. But they continue to attract and retain people in droves, which is a nice tie in to yesterday’s post about urban renewal and the importance of lifestyle.

People will put up with a lot if your city is an otherwise awesome place to live.

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