Parade Magazine names Columbia the hardest-working town in America

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 7:22 p.m. CDT; updated 7:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 16, 2012

COLUMBIA — Columbia beat out an impressive list of cities as the "hardest-working town" in America in a weekend report published in Parade Magazine.

The distinction means Mayor Bob McDavid will have an extra chore to do. 

Hard-working towns

Parade's list of hard-working towns includes:

  1. Columbia 
  2. Hartford, Conn.
  3. Norfolk, Va.
  4. Bloomington, Ind.
  5. Tuscaloosa, Ala.
  6. Gainesville, Fla.
  7. Las Cruces, N.M.
  8. Newark, N.J.
  9. Lansing, Mich.
  10. Bridgeport, Conn.
  11. Baton Rouge, La.
  12. Salt Lake City
  13. Los Angeles
  14. Waco, Texas
  15. Athens, Ga.
  16. Boulder, Colo.
  17. Des Moines, Iowa
  18. Long Beach, Calif. 
  19. Evansville, Ind.
  20. Milwaukee 
  21. Akron, Ohio
  22. Albany, N.Y.
  23. Montgomery, Ala.
  24. Baltimore 
  25. Dallas

On the morning of April 25, McDavid will be at Flat Branch Park passing out samples of Total Cereal, which sponsored the list produced by Parade, Total spokeswoman Kristen Zemeitus said.

It was the long hours Columbia residents work, the city's low unemployment rate and its high concentration of dual-income homes that earned the city the title. Other cities on the list included some of the country's largest metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles and Dallas, and smaller cities such as Norfolk, Va., and Bloomington, Ind. 

Parade cited data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and a survey conducted by Mediamark Research as its sources for developing the list. Mediamark asked people how often they work on weekends or whether they mind sacrificing their personal lives for work.

"Since this is not a list that had been done before, we used our editorial judgment and a combination of sources to determine what makes a hard-working town," Parade editor Maggie Murphy said in an email response to Missourian questions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Columbia's projected unemployment rate for February was 5.4 percent. The national unemployment rate for February was 8.2 percent. 

The magazine partnered with Total Cereal to create the list for its "What People Earn" issue, which was delivered with the Missourian's Sunday print edition. The full report, with photos from the hardest-working towns, appeared on Parade's website.

"It just so happened that Total Cereal wanted to salute the hardest working towns," Murphy said. "But they make food. They are not exactly equipped to do this kind of research. I thought it was a good editorial match for the issue, so that’s why my edit team took on the task of compiling a list of the hardest working towns in the U.S."

Zemeitus, the Total spokeswoman, said the project was a good fit for the company's cereal product.

"Total sees itself as a hardworking cereal," she said in an email.

To go along with the story, Total Cereal has decided to hand out 100-calorie packs of its cereal in each of the top five towns on Parade's list. In Columbia, they will distribute the samples on April 25 at Flat Branch Park, beginning at 6:30 a.m. McDavid, who could not be reached for comment, will join them from 8 to 9 a.m.

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Richard Saunders April 17, 2012 | 4:43 p.m.

High levels of dual-income families are a sign of a community struggling to keep their heads above water.

Better yet, many families are once again three generation households, so there's still room for improvement as we aim for three, four, and maybe even... if I dare say... five income families!!

C'mon Columbia, you can do it!

Now, GBTW! (the Mayor is counting on you)

Meanwhile, back in the America that I grew up in, most families managed just fine on a single income, with society being much healthier for it.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield April 17, 2012 | 5:06 p.m.

One reason why dual-income families exist here and elsewhere is that the parents and children confuse wants (e.g., an HD TV and HBO in every bedroom and a smartphone for every family member) with needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter and saving for retirement and rainy days). Another reason is because both parents want to work, such as because they went to college and want to pursue that career instead of staying home.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 17, 2012 | 6:19 p.m.

Richard Saunders wrote:

"Meanwhile, back in the America that I grew up in, most families managed just fine on a single income, with society being much healthier for it."

Jimmy makes the point above that we just have so much more STUFF to spend money on. We have larger houses, more cars, and a whole range of gadgetry and toys to spend money on, most of which will cost the user far more in service fees than the initial price.

People could plan and choose to live on one income fairly easily. But since we seem to gauge our quality of life on how much STUFF we have, it gets tougher to do that.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 18, 2012 | 6:54 a.m.

@ Richard Saunders:

Back in the America that I grew up in, the situation described by Bearfield and Foecking was known collectively as "keeping up with the Joneses." Why they chose a Celtic name like "Jones" rather than a good, solid Anglo name like "Smith" I do not know. :)

Of course an economist (PhD, of course) would remind us that without this penchant for avarice the entire American economy might "tank." I also note that as some other nations have pulled themselves out of abject poverty there seems to be a tendency for their citizens to become "acquisitional."

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 18, 2012 | 7:48 a.m.

Parade Magazine states that Columbia's success rests primariy on education and health care. Obvious, to anyone who lives in Columbia.

Neither education nor health care "tanked" nationally to the extent the general economy did during the 2008 recession.

Higher education and health care represent segments of the economy notorious for having cost increases exceeding the general rate of inflation.

Not much mention was given to manufacturing. Why would or could there be? The economy in Columbia may indeed be good, but it's hardly "balanced."

Working harder may also be good, but working smarter could be even better.

(Report Comment)

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