2013-01-24 / Views

From the Braver Institute

The Upper Peninsula is the greatest place in the country to live blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before and the people of the U.P. aren’t the only ones to say it about the place they live in. I am confident that people who live in Kansas go on and on about the unspeakable beauty of its flatness or how beautiful the sunset is through the wheat fields on the horizon.

You rarely hear anyone saying that the place they live is horrible for one reason or another and that they are proud of that fact, unless it serves a purpose, and that is usually to brag about how tough they all are—we’re a tough bunch here in the Armpit. You’ve got to be tough to live here. If anyone can handle a situation like this, it’s us, blah, blah, blah. …

On closer examination though, the idea of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan being the greatest place in the country may bear out, at least statistically speaking.

I was looking at a map of the United States that illustrated the levels of poverty across the country. According to this map the poorest areas of the country were primarily the South, Southwest, Appalachia, the Dakotas, and Montana. The U.P. may not be the wealthiest place in the country, but according to the statistics, it certainly isn’t a bad place when it comes to income.

Chalk one up for the U.P. and a strike against the other five mentioned.

Speaking of income, the unemployment rate of the U.P. is a bit on the high side when compared to the rest of the country, but not as bad as many areas, especially the West. Overall it is kind of average with the exception of Ontonagon and Baraga counties.

Mark down a strike for the Western States.

According to a US Geological Survey map, almost all of the country is susceptible to earthquakes to varying degrees, with the exception of parts of Florida, Texas and the Upper Midwest, which is, of course, where the Upper Peninsula is. We tend to think of California as the only place for earthquakes, but the area where Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee all come together is right on top of the New Madrid fault and is an area of high risk for earthquakes.

Almost the whole country, except for the three areas mentioned, get a strike for earthquakes.

The earthquake map reminded me of a map I had seen of areas at high risk for tornadoes. While there is some risk for such weather phenomenon in the U.P., that risk is on the low side and it pales in comparison to the Great Plains and areas of the South. Although they do happen here on rare occasion, we don’t live in fear of tornadoes.

Another strike against the South, and one for the Great Plains.

A near equal to the tornado in terms of destructive force is the hurricane. Most of the country has no trouble with hurricanes, but we still need to count them as strikes against the places that do. The Gulf States and the Atlantic Seaboard take a beating from hurricanes, and the U.P. might notice a bit of a rain increase from such things, but certainly not severe weather. Let’s not forget perfect little Hawaii, they don’t get hurricanes, but they are threatened by typhoons (same thing, different name).

Tsunamis don’t threaten the U.P. or most of the rest of the country but they do threaten every Pacific coast state.

Most of the Eastern, and Southern States are at an above average risk of flooding, along with the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa. The Upper Peninsula sits in a below average flood risk area in spite of the fact that we are nearly surrounded by water. There is so much water here that you are never more than four miles from a lake, river or stream when you are in the U.P. Perhaps that is why we are rarely in a situation of drought. Sure, we have dry spells from time to time, but the Plains states and the West are the areas that get hit hard and frequently by drought.

Is anyone still keeping score out there?

Moving away from weather and economy, another serious thing to consider while determining how good or bad an area is would be crime statistics.

The South, Southwest, West, and portions of the East Coast all experience a higher rate of violent crime than the Upper Peninsula. And even though the entire country has some problem with drug abuse, the East and West coasts appear to be the areas hardest hit.

All things considered, I would have to say that the quality of life in Upper Peninsula is rather high. In fact I was looking at another map that charted quality of life by county. Once again the Upper Peninsula fared much better than the South, Southwest, Appalachia, and the Western States. Most of the U.P. was listed as average or above average.

When you look at things with a statistical eye, I guess the Upper Peninsula is the greatest place in the country.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com.

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