I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” Well, maybe that used to be true, but nowadays, if you really want put your money where your mouth is and work your tail off to get ahead, you’ll need to move to Seattle, aka America’s Hardest Working City.
What’s this you say, New Yorkers? I’m crazy? You might be half-correct. After all, I am the guy who writes stories about the value of fictional homes such as Hogwarts and Tony Stark’s mansion. But in this case, I think I’m right on the money.
A while back over the Fourth of July weekend, I got to thinking about what traits make America, you know, so American. One that kept sticking in my head was the idea of the American work ethic. The idea that, if you, John or Jane Smith, put in the hours, you’ll climb the social hierarchy and arrive in that land known as Middle Class. Essentially, I’m talking about a meritocracy. You can disagree with me on whether the States actually have a meritocracy, but you can’t debate that the concept is ingrained in our culture.
What this all means is that Americans like to work hard.
With this in mind, I set out to find which cities in America are really bringing home the bacon, probably by walking uphill both ways. I found that you’ll need to get up early in the morning if you’re going to outwork residents in these 10 cities:
- Seattle, WA
- Arlington, TX
- Fort Worth, TX
- Austin, TX
- San Jose, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Dallas, TX
- Virginia Beach, VA
- Washington, D.C.
- Houston, TX
What I found striking about this list is that it’s heavy in cities from California and Texas. While there might be a blue state, red state divide between the two, it’s good to know there’s something they can agree on, and that is working hard.
If you’re interested in figuring out how I came up with this list, roll up your selves and skip lunch, because there’s work to be done.
The Hardest Working City in… Everything
Frequent readers know the drill. Movoto Real Estate’s Big Deal Lists look at a number of criteria, in this case seven, and rank them. We then take the average score of all the criteria and calculate our Big Deal Score. Essentially, the city with the lowest average score across all our criteria is crowned the winner, or in rare occasions the loser. We’re looking at you St. Louis—the Most Sinful City in America!
Recently, we have been looking at the country ‘s 100 most populous cities. For this piece we looked at the 50 most populous cities. Don’t fret, people of Rochester, NY (the 100th most populous city), as we’ll be bringing back the full list in a little bit. The reason we chopped our list in half for this survey is that large sections of the data we used did not have statistics for all 100 cosmos.
What’s in Elbow Grease?
My own personal brand of elbow grease includes seven ingredients. In other words, each city was measured on these criteria:
- Average hours worked per week
- Unemployment rate
- Commute time
- Employed workers per household
- Hours volunteered per year
- Lack of sleep
- Cost of living
Below you’ll find a breakdown of each criterion, including the winner of each category. That said, if you just can’t contain yourself and you really, really want to get back to the old grind, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find a detailed chart explaining it all. I’m warning you though, it won’t be as satisfying.
Average Hours Worked Per Week
For this criterion, I looked at the average number of hours people work in a week in each city. I don’t think this needs much of an explanation, but because this is the Internet, I’ll say this: More hours equals more pay. Simple.
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in Houston are putting in more time than the rest of us. Resident of the Texas city averaged 37.6 hours of work each week. Coming in second was a three way tie between Fort Worth, Arlington, and Dallas, each with 37 hours. This is likely because the data collected was for the metro area.
At this point I need to remind everyone that anything over 35 is considered full-time. Keep on trucking, Houston, the rest of us will try to keep up.
Working hard means you are actually working. In most places this means you have a gainful employment and are slugging away at your 9 to 5. According to recent reports, the city with the lowest unemployment rate is Seattle, with just a 4 percent of its population out of work. If this number seems low to you, it did to me too. I doubled checked.
Technically, commuting isn’t part of your employment hours, but it does feel a lot like work, especially if you have to travel a significant distance before you put in your 8, 10, or 12-hour day. For this criterion we relied on Census data, which estimated the average commute time for each city. The city with the longest commute turned out to be Chicago, though with the recent BART strike in San Fran, I’m willing to bet we had the Windy City beat—at least for a little bit.
According to the Census, Chicago residents spend 33.7 minutes on their way to work.
Workers Per Household
The goal for this criterion was to figure out how many households in each city have multiple people working. I did this by using Census data to figure out the estimated number of employed residents in each city and the number of households. After some simple division, I ended up with an estimate for the number of working stiffs in each abode. New York City easily took the top spot with 2.4 workers per household. Right behind was San Jose with 1.49 workers per household.
I know what you’re thinking: What does this have to do with working hard? This is my acknowledgement that your day job isn’t everything. Some people put in extra hours for other causes that are important to them.
What I found was that people in Oklahoma City are stockpiling good deeds. The fine folks Oklahoma City had an average of 76.6 volunteer hours per person in 2008.
I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t explain how I figured this category out and why I used data from 2008. As I mentioned at the start of the article, some data was difficult to come by. Volunteer hours was some of that data. I relied on information found in the Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. I used 2008’s data because it was the most complete. Still, a few cities on my list were missing. In that case I used that average number of volunteer hours on a state level.
Lack of Sleep
Around our office—and we’re betting a lot of your offices as well—emails are zipping back and forth as late as 11 p.m., maybe later. We decided to include amount of sleep each city gets every night as an indicator of extra work hours.
What I looked at specifically were the number of days in a month that person reported not getting enough sleep. Columbus, which I profiled a few weeks ago, had a highest number of sleepless night at 9.7, essentially a third of the month.
Cost of Living
Finally, I looked at the cost of living in each city. Cities with high costs of living ranked higher in this category. My thought was that city where it cost you billion dollars for a burger and fries was a place you’d probably be working hard just to survive. That said, it came as no surprise that San Francisco, home to the billion dollar burger and beer, came in first. (Yes, I cried a little when I saw this. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I still cry.)
Now, I should remind you that you’ll probably need to log a few more minutes at the office before you catch the 5:01 home. That is unless you’re Seattle, who I’ve decided is trying to make us all look bad.
Now get back to work!
Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is an online real estate brokerage based in San Mateo, CA. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes and CBS News.