For many of us, the biggest factor affecting our future will be our choice of hometown.

Yes, our job, our education, and our spending and thinking habits can help us dodge some financial threats from climate change. But where we live can negate or boost other influences. To help us see the dangers, our Where-To-Live Scorecards evaluate every town in America looking at the climate-related costs their residents face.

What’s different about our ratings?  You’ve probably seen lists of “America’s Ten Best Places To Retire,” or “Great places to raise children.” Criteria for selecting these hometowns include art galleries, schools, sports and recreation facilities, riverside bike paths, beautiful buildings and historic districts, to name a few.

We think that’s great – we value good libraries and sidewalk cafes as much as anyone. But our Where-To-Live Scorecards reflect a different focus – in two ways. First, we concentrate on the climate-driven challenges facing American families’ finances and quality of life. We judge hometowns by how likely they are to insulate their residents from these costs and dangers over the coming years.

Second, we look for indicators of future conditions, not just today’s. Many of those Best Places face dangers ahead. We want to predict how climate-proof they will be ten or more years from now.

Golf courses, town sports fields and local parks can wither with drought, as in Santa Cruz, CA. Many seaside towns, like Norfolk, VA, will need to levy huge taxes to stay protected and functional. Millions of low-lying homes will lose their value, as in Florida. Less snow and more wildfires can make nearby ski resorts and hiking trails less attractive, as around Lake Tahoe. Out-of-doors activities aren’t so much fun as the pollen count becomes extreme, as in McAllen, TX.

And many residents and local leaders are handicapped by inertia or by their beliefs in making the decisions needed today to keep their town safe and prosperous tomorrow.

What do the Scorecards cost? They’re FREE. Read, compare, and download indicators on as many locations as you want.  Check out a sample Scorecard

How can I use them? If you’re like most readers of Where-To-Live Scorecards, you’ll want to evaluate your hometown, compare it with others, or just wander from town to town getting the feel for the costs and risks that might affect your family if you moved.

You’ll learn about specific factors predicted to affect your finances and well-being. Maybe you’ll discover some attractive communities you haven’t thought about.  And you’ll learn how you can do more detailed and local research yourself.

We can help you find out how proactive a town is likely to be. After all, a dollar spent now on protective measures saves, on average, four dollars in future damages.

Can I easily compare towns? Yes. “Compared to what?” is the best question to ask when looking at measurements and ratings.

You can compile a custom list of your Recently Requested Scorecards and save or print them. Push the COMPARE TOWNS button to create a table showing side-by-side measurements for all of the towns you select.

Where do the data come from?   All the indicators we use are from government and well-reputed research organizations. Skim through their logos at the bottom of this page. Some are well-known, like FEMA for flood maps or ratings agencies that tell you if a municipality is capable of funding protections for its residents and businesses. Other sources are little-known, like how good your town’s disaster preparedness is, how high your town’s ‘social vulnerability’ is, or the deficient-bridges measurement of how much your state and county will need to spend on transportation infrastructure, likely postponing the expenditures needed to fight drought, flooding, sea level rise, or health threats.

Some of these measurements are hard to uncover, to convert into useful form, or to compare. Details of the measurements we use are given on each Scorecard and on the Notes and Sources page.

How subjective are the ratings? It’s a good question. All our indicators come from reputable research organizations, and its their numbers and ratings that are presented to you in our Scorecards. We do, however, choose which indicators we think are applicable, convert them to grades and, in creating our Most Climate-Proof lists, assign them weights. Take a look at some Where-To-Live Scorecards and let us have your comments (at the bottom of most pages on this web site). Maybe you can help us see a town or a measurement more objectively.

How local are our indicators?  As local as we can find, like drought risk by county, healthcare costs by hospital service area, average WalkScore by Zip Code, and heating/cooling needs, sunshine, and wind by nearest weather station

Where more highly-localized data are available to you but are not in our database, we tell you where to tap those resources.

Why all this emphasis on location?  There may be lots of smart financial and lifestyle actions you can take, just staying where you are. The media are full of them, from high-mileage cars to backyard vegetable gardens to solar panels to flood insurance. Many of these tactics can help a family weather their local challenges predicted for this decade. But you can’t

get your municipality out from under existing unfunded pension liabilities and fiscal pressures,

install wind or solar power where wind and sunshine are well below average,

save transportation costs if you have to drive everywhere,

start a community garden in the wrong soil and climate,

stretch your retirement savings in an area with high healthcare, housing, and living costs, or

keep municipal and state taxes down in a place prone to natural disasters.

For many families, moving to a different hometown can do far more to control financial, environmental, and social costs than any number of lifestyle changes. And you won’t be alone. in 2017 1,686,000 Americans were displaced thanks to natural disasters. That figure is expected to grow. By the end of this century, 13 million Americans are expected to leave the coasts and move inland, thanks to the financial costs of rising seas alone.

The earlier you understand your situation, move away, or take other action the better. There’s money to be made or saved if you’re ahead of the crowd.


Scorecards include indicators from
these and similar authorities:

US Census Bureau