Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Archive for the ‘Washington, D.C.’ Category

Washington, D.C.

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Like many who graduated from my college, I got a job in Washington, D.C. I moved here 4 years ago and the difference between where I live now and where I am originally from, a rural-suburban area, is staggering. There are a lot of both good and bad things about living here, and whether you like it here or not depends on what is important to you as a person. I will start with the good things. First, there are a lot of stable jobs here. As the seat of the federal government, DC may lead the country in job stability. In addition, many people work for contractors who pay more, but while any given job is unstable, the contract is likely to stay in the DC area, and many contractors migrate from company to company to follow the contract.

The DC metro area has 3 airports, including 1 major international airport, making it easy to get anywhere in the US, Europe or certain other parts of the world. Another plus is the high average salary and education levels. Arlington, which belonged to DC proper until 1846, has the highest rate of people with graduate degrees in the US. There’s also a lot to do here with the monuments, museums, sports teams and restaurants, plus there’s a lot of free stuff to do. There is a thriving night life and the city is rich in international culture.

However, there are quite a few negatives to living in the DC area. The traffic is the second worst in the US. Public transportation is inadequate, as are the number of good roads leading into downtown DC from Maryland. The majority of the city itself has a crime problem and appears run down. There is a very high cost of living. Many people deal with this by buying houses 15-50 miles outside the city and commuting (which can mean 5 hour commutes round trip). The city is very political, which extends to almost every aspect of life. I do not find people here particularly friendly; they seem to be rather cliquish. The nightlife is pervasive, leaving young adults not into that scene to feel like outcasts. Everybody seems busy all the time, and everything is always rush rush rush.

Also, despite what certain magazines may say, DC is a bad city for singles. It is difficult to form a meaningful bond or connection with people, possibly due to the high stress/rush/cliquish mentality, so that people can’t spend true quality time with each other. Some of these factors tend to affect other areas of life. The DC area has a lot of workaholics. With the emphasis on work, there are many 2 income households. The problem this creates is that the average household income is high, which drives up the cost of living, and singles often can’t compete. On a recent search, I found that houses in a safe neighborhood started at 100,000, an amount too high for most singles to pay. Since it is a bad place for singles, one can not expect to meet and marry someone anytime soon to help with mortgage payments. This is why people tend to live in far off suburbs or even exurbs.

I recently polled the people in my office on living situations and found everyone fit into one of two groups: young people who had roommates who rented and lived close to the city, and middle aged/older people who had houses, but who lived at least 15 miles away from downtown, giving them a bad commute. This was not a choice, it was mandated by cost of housing. Overall, I would say that DC is a good place for Type A, driven, career oriented people. However, if your focus is on your family, it’s probably not the best place.

Sent by Mark from Washington, D.C.