February 17, 2014

Study: Best Cities of the Future

Read more about Future of Credit Cards

Not long ago, the idea of using a credit card to feed a parking meter was about as crazy as using Spam to feed a vegetarian. If you needed to figure out where you needed to go, you had to pull out a huge, folded, paper map from your glove box - GPS was just a random combination of letters back then.

City life changes with the times, of course, and in many ways for the better. It’s in major metropolitan areas that real change becomes evident. With this in mind, CreditDonkey.com wanted to find out where we can see the future happening now by looking for cities that are embracing change the most. Where are the cities of the future?

Study Methodology

We based our list on five data points applied to major metropolitan areas. First, we wanted to know how much people really want to be in a particular city, so we looked at U.S. Census population data for 2010 through 2012. We figured that people will stick around for progress or head for the exit if a place is stuck in its ways. The average population growth during that time for the cities we evaluated was 1.72%.

We also wanted to know if people in an area are "dwelling in the past" so to speak, so we measured the age of housing, which we also took from the U.S. Census. Don't get us wrong, old houses have charm and history, but they can also have lead paint, poor insulation, and decades' worth of dead pets buried in the yard. We wanted to know which cities were putting down new roots. On average, about 70% of the housing in the cities we evaluated was built before 1990.

Cities of the future also fortify themselves by constructing modern bridges, freeways, waterways, and other infrastructure. Rather than take on the tricky task of tabulating federal, state, county, and city infrastructure spending for each metropolitan statistical area, we factored in the size of the construction-labor market in each city to indirectly reflect that effort. On average, construction jobs as a percentage of the population were 1.63%.

We didn't stop there. If there's one thing people think of when they hear the word "future," it's space. The final frontier. So we also counted the number of FAA-recognized space-travel companies as well as proposed or existing spaceports in each city.

Moreover, every Michael J. Fox fan knows you can't get to the future without a flux capacitor, but those are hard to count. Instead, we checked eBay to find out which cities had at least one DeLorean for sale in the state in the last year. That is the most efficient way to get to the future, after all.

10 Best Cities of the Future

10. Las Cruces, NM

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 39.84%
  • Population change since 2010: +1.96%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.5%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 2
  • DeLoreans available: 0

Out of left field comes Las Cruces. At 213,000 people, this southern New Mexico town you've never heard of is bigger than Ithaca, NY; Flagstaff, AZ; Napa, CA; and Springfield, IL. The town became popular during the new millennium with retirees seeking good weather and a lower cost of living, and the city grew from 52 to 77 square miles between 1999 and 2009 alone. The famous White Sands Missile Range is just up the road, but what really sets the town apart is the $200 million spaceport that, unlike other spaceports on our list, is already built. The first flight is scheduled to depart sometime this year.

Did you know? Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and his children plan to be among the first passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo, the rocket plane that departs from the New Mexico Spaceport in 2014.

9. Houston, TX

Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 42.53%
  • Population change since 2010: +3.85%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 2.5%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 2
  • DeLoreans available: 0

Houston was #1 on our list of best cities for young couples, which makes it no surprise that it's on this list too. A lot of new housing, a lot of construction going on - this is a town that intends to stick around. You can't buy a DeLorean there (at least not right now), but with a long-storied history in space travel, Houston is a city that will continue its ascent.

Did you know? An Xbox 360 game console has almost 100 times more computing power than the flight computer on the space shuttle; NASA did not upgrade the computer because the existing computer was so reliable.

8. Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 49.93%
  • Population change since 2010: +2.85%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.68%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 2
  • DeLoreans available: 0

Phoenix gets so hot in the summer that many residents wish they could jump about six months forward in time, when the winter temperatures mellow out into the 70s. Half of the city's housing was built in 1990 or later, and although the city took an absolute beating during the recession in terms of real estate prices, Phoenix is on its way back.

Did you know? On March 13, 1997, one of the most famous UFO sightings in the United States occurred in the skies over Phoenix. Witnesses described a giant V-shaped object.

7. San Jose, CA

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 20.10%
  • Population change since 2010: +2.84%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.36%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 2
  • DeLoreans available: 2

San Jose is neck-and-neck with Los Angeles in terms of old housing, but this is the kind of town where you're supposed to be happy about paying $650,000 for a 75-year-old house that has 1,000 square feet. Without question, the tech sector lands San Jose squarely on the list, but the city is also aided by high efforts in infrastructure, the influx of people to the area, and California's relatively massive space transportation industry.

Did you know? In 1900, San Jose had just 21,500 residents. Today it's home to about 1.9 million people.

6. Miami, FL

Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 29.54%
  • Population change since 2010: +3.24%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.07%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 2
  • DeLoreans available: 3

Although it was crippled during the recent recession, the Miami housing market had grown voraciously after 1990. Now almost a third of the metro area's houses are fewer than 15 years old. Infrastructure-building construction jobs are below the national average, but with two major space transport companies in the area, the entire Atlantic Coast of Florida could become the gateway to the future.

Did you know? Miami installed the first ATM just for rollerbladers needing a quick cash-out.

5. Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 38.84%
  • Population change since 2010: +3.57%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.89%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 3
  • DeLoreans available: 0

Nearly 40% of housing in the Mile High City was built after 1990, which is a testament to the massive growth that has occurred over the past two decades, especially on the north and south ends of town. Denver is also noteworthy for investing in its infrastructure - it has an above-average proportion of construction jobs - and the population change is double the rest of the country. You won't see any DeLoreans cruising I-25 or I-70, though.

Did you know? The Metropolitan State University of Denver tries to harness future advances by giving budding entrepreneurs a career pathway in its Center of Innovation.

4. Orlando, FL

Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 48.89%
  • Population change since 2010: +3.93%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.5%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 3
  • DeLoreans available: 3

Disney World's Epcot Center is one of Orlando's most famous symbols of the future, but what may be more amazing is the vast quantity of new housing there and the fact that the population has shot up in such a short time. The city is also close to the most famous space-travel spots: Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

Did you know? Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, helped design the 180-foot-tall Epcot Center ball, also known as "Spaceship Earth."

3. Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 33.24%
  • Population change since 2010: +2.99%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 1.37%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 4
  • DeLoreans available: 0

Although this city deserves extra points for the Space Needle, Seattle makes number three on our list without it because the city has a population change that's well above average. Though Spaceport Washington is nowhere near Seattle (it's closer to Yakima), this city of 3.5 million people has four operating space transport companies and some of the brightest minds in aerospace. No DeLoreans, though. Maybe it's the rain.

Did you know? The Space Needle was originally intended to be the central focus of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, whose theme was Century 21. It didn't have computerized elevators until 1993.

2. Bakersfield, CA

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 35.08%
  • Population change since 2010: +1.72%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 2.09%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 4
  • DeLoreans available: 2

When you hear "Bakersfield," you might think "farms," but the Bakersfield area, which is home to about 850,000 people, also generates about 76% of the state's oil supply. Why on earth would Bakersfield beat San Jose in future-ness? Well, the area has four solid space transport companies and Edwards Air Force Base nearby, which have fueled population growth and housing growth. And more than 60 companies working on flight development test out their work at the Mohave Air & Space Port. It also has more construction work going on and more new housing.

Did you know? Bakersfield has more Basque eateries than any other city in the United States, so you can feel like you are in the southern part of France/northern part of Spain without having to take a plane trip.

1. Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California

  • % of housing built in 1990 or later: 15.22%
  • Population change since 2010: +1.63%
  • Construction jobs as % of population: 0.69%
  • Space transport companies and proposed spaceports: 8
  • DeLoreans available: 2

Los Angeles may have a lot of old housing, relative to the other areas on this list, but that may be because residents here don’t plan to stay for long: The area has the highest number of FAA-recognized space transport companies and planned spaceports in the country. The do-it-yourself method of future-building is also big in California – if you have about $20,000, there's a 1981 DeLorean nearby with your name on it.

Did you know? Most of Back to the Future was filmed in Pasadena, Burbank, and other parts of the Los Angeles metro area.


Charles Kettering, the famous inventor and one-time head of research at General Motors, once said, "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." Some towns agree with that statement more than others, but the future is by nature unpredictable; just ask Marty McFly. And predicting whether a city will prosper or suffer is hard to do - just ask Detroit.

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Follow @CreditDonkey or write to Tina O at tina@creditdonkey.com
Tina O is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped young adults make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

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