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D.C.’s done pretty well in the rankings lately. We’re the best city for vegetarians. The second highest for wellbeing. The second-best city for college grads. If there’s a top ten list we’re not on, it’s probably because we’re somehow disqualified.
I usually ignore such lists as arbitrary and cheap ways to drive traffic by tapping into the human instinct for one-upmanship. But the latest ranking to cross my radar screen struck me as particularly absurd: According to ForbesWoman, the District is the second-best city in the nation for working mothers. In their video describing the top three (Minneapolis won out), the analyst talks about D.C.’s low unemployment, plummeting crime rate, and the “huge transformation in their public education system,” all of which are apparently Things Moms Want.
I’m not saying that each of those individual metrics isn’t true (though the education one is certainly up for debate). But you’ve got to ask: Why aren’t jobs, low crime rates, and a good education system things that working dads would want just as much? Or, for that matter, people generally? Most of these lists are essentially based on common quality-of-life indicators that should be able to stand on their own. A recent college grad, for example, might pay more attention to the number of entry level jobs available in a given city, but they might also have other priorities, like proximity to other urban centers or a vibrant arts scene—all of which depend on the person.
If publications were honest, they’d just publish individual metrics relating to employment, quality of life, etc., and let individual working mothers, recent college grads, and vegetarians work out for themselves what they find appealing (actually, CNN does a pretty good job of this). But subjective compilations for different demographics attract clicks and generate angry responses like this one. So I suppose we should just enjoy being on top.