A rank list

Nothing empowers the agitators for higher taxes and ever more government programs than best-worst rankings. Bad news is the best kind of news for these politicians and special interests, who frequently misrepresent the flawed conclusions of these lists to claim that life in Nevada would be so much better if only we seized more wealth from the private sector and gave it to our warmhearted bureaucracies.

Yet another such survey was released this month to publicize the debut issue of Children’s Health magazine, which trumpeted its “100 Best (and Worst) Places to Raise a Family.” The magazine ranked Las Vegas 92nd.

But the magazine doesn’t have a separate list of the 100 “worst” places to raise a family. Its editors take the absurd position that being the 92nd best place in America to raise a family also makes it the ninth-worst. That’s like saying the Universities of Kansas, Nebraska and Alabama are the country’s worst institutions of higher education simply because they round out the top 100 in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of national universities. There are plenty more than 100 places to raise a family (or go to college).

Predictably, the magazine chose highly subjective variables in rating what makes a city family-friendly. Education was weighted heavily, and because Las Vegas has a highly transient population and a service-oriented work force, it scored poorly on its high school graduation rate and the number of advanced degrees per capita.

The survey also took the dubious position that state spending per student has a direct correlation to quality of education, which also hurt Las Vegas (the schools of Washington, D.C., are showered with tax dollars and they fail by every academic measure). School choice, which applies competitive pressures to public education monopolies, wasn’t a consideration.

The study also took the position that having lots of fast-food restaurants automatically makes a city a bad place to raise a family. “Somehow people are finding ways to be healthy,” researcher Joel Weber mused about the plethora of eateries in Las Vegas and the city’s relative good health.

The findings led UNLV’s Denise Tanata Ashby to suggest that more early childhood education programs — day care — might improve the city’s ranking (with taxpayer subsides, of course). Having people other than parents raise children makes a city a better place to raise a family?

This survey, like so many of its predecessors, offers no meaningful contribution to public policy discussions. Every city has its flowers and warts. The only variable that really counts in family matters is deeply committed parenting — in other words, family itself.

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