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Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Tops as Nonstress City

Associated Press

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the best place to live in America to avoid “urban stress” and three cities in Southern California are among the worst, according to yet another set of city rankings.

The list was released Wednesday by the group Zero Population Growth, which spent a year comparing cities and concluded that Gary, Ind., is the most stressful community.

The rankings come just a week after California State University researcher Robert Levine pronounced Reno, Nev., the most stressful spot in the nation and State College, Pa., as the least stressful.

Population Factors

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While both studies were designed to rate urban stress, the ZPG report assesses population and environmental factors, while Levine studied the human response to stress.

Cedar Rapids got a stress rating of 1.6 from ZPG, edging out Madison, Wis., which had a 1.7 rating, and Ann Arbor, Mich., and Lincoln, Neb., which each rated 1.8.

Gary, on the other hand, was rated 4.2. Not much better, with ratings of 4.1, were Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Jersey City, N.J., and Pomona, Calif.

Maxine Young, executive director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce, disputed the last-place ranking, commenting that many outsiders have heard myths about her city.

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‘Hard-Working Town’

“We’re an industrial town, a hard-working town,” she said. “We’re not offering sunshine and blue skies, we’re offering a good solid community in which to live, work and play.”

Gary has suffered economically in recent years, she said, “but we are making a comeback.”

The ZPG study ranks communities according to population change and density, support for education, crime rates, economics, air quality, hazardous wastes, water and sewage. It assessed from 1 to 5 points--fewer is better--and then averages them for the overall score.

Levine’s report, published by Psychology Today magazine, used four factors: rates of alcoholism, crime, suicide and divorce.

His top spot, State College, Pa., wasn’t included in the ZPG study, which concentrated on cities of 100,000 people or more--or the largest city in states with no city that large. State College had 34,330 people in 1986, the latest Census Bureau estimate. Reno, last in Levine’s list, managed a relatively good 2.8 rating from ZPG.

Levine’s report ranked Cedar Rapids 55th out of 286 and placed the region including Gary, Hammond and East Chicago in 118th place.

Best Large City

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Zero Population Growth said the best large city--that is with a half-million people or more--was Columbus, Ohio, with a 2.6 rating. And it gave Virginia Beach, Va., a 2.4 to make it best among the cities of 250,000 to 500,000 residents. Madison, Wis., topped the 150,000 to 250,000 category and Cedar Rapids was best small city on the list.

Zero Population Growth describes itself as a membership group working to achieve a sustainable balance of population, environment and resources. It places considerable emphasis on slowing population growth and, in its rankings, larger communities tended to have lower rankings.

While the ZPG study didn’t provide rankings for all the cities it rated, here are their 10 best and worst:

The top 10 plus ties:

Cedar Rapids, 1.6; Madison, Wis., 1.7; Ann Arbor, Mich., 1.8; Lincoln, Neb., 1.8; Fargo, N.D., 1.9; Livonia, Mich., 1.9; Concord, Calif., 2.0; Alexandria, Va., 2.1; Eugene, Ore., 2.1; Roanoke, Va., 2.1; Worcester, Mass., 2.1.

The bottom 10 plus ties:

Gary, 4.2; Baltimore, 4.1; Chicago, 4.1; Houston, 4.1; Jersey City, N.J., 4.1; Pomona, Calif., 4.1; El Paso, Tex., 4.0; Cleveland, 3.9; Ft. Worth, Texas, 3.9; Inglewood, Calif., 3.9; Los Angeles, 3.9; St. Louis, 3.9.


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