Study shows Las Vegas has special appeal

Thanks to its status as one of the world’s best-known brands, Las Vegas holds a special place in the imaginations of legions of Americans.

A new study from the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. reveals that Las Vegas appeals to a specific demographic set of Americans in particular.

The center’s Social and Demographic Trends project surveyed Americans about where they’d most like to be living. The group found that 46 percent of citizens would rather live in a different type of community than the one they inhabit.

Asked to name specific places they’d prefer to call home, they named Denver, San Diego and Seattle as their top three. Las Vegas ranked No. 20 overall, with a full three-quarters of respondents saying they wouldn’t want to live here.

Strip the numbers down to educational, income and gender levels, though, and the city’s reputation fares better.

Las Vegas made the list of the Top 10 most-desirable cities for survey participants with a high school diploma or less. It also did well among respondents earning less than $30,000 a year. And Las Vegas proved considerably more popular among men than women. Men are twice as likely as women to dream of greener pastures here.

The results don’t necessarily foretell trends in future in-migration, said Paul Taylor, director of Pewуs Social & Demographic Trends initiative. In fact, U.S. residents are less mobile than ever, with the number of Americans who moved in the last year dropping from around 20 percent in the 1960s to 11.9 percent in 2008. As the population ages, people relocate less often, Taylor said. Plus, the rise of two-income families makes long-haul transfers tough, because it’s harder to manage the hunt for fresh economic opportunities when two people have a say in any move, he said.

Still, the study’s results underline "the very special niche" Las Vegas occupies in the country’s popular culture and collective imagination, Taylor said.

Local economists said they aren’t surprised Las Vegas performed well among less-educated, lower-earning Americans.

Jeremy Aguero, a principal in local economic-research firm Applied Analysis, said lower-skilled jobs in sectors such as construction and hospitality pay better here than they do in many other U.S. cities, so Las Vegas has become a sort of economic Valhalla for folks without college degrees.

And then there’s the glamour factor, said Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. People recall the fun they had visiting, or they conjure up visions of that really cool episode of "Las Vegas" they saw a while back.

None of the experts would hazard a guess as to why Las Vegas is more popular with men than women. Must be all of our great, um, libraries. And museums.

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