“Parenting magazine released its annual list of the best and worst places to raise a child this week, once again naming the Mariana Trench—an undersea chasm located 36,000 feet beneath the western Pacific Ocean—as the least desirable location for rearing children. The periodical’s staff reportedly selected amongst thousands of locations, weighing a diverse range of criteria such living costs, air quality, and local amenities, categories for which the pitch-black, silt-covered abyss unanimously received an ‘F’ rating.”
Now this is funny. True to form, the Onion is mocking how obsessed our society is about ranking neighborhoods and valuing social prestige. Underlying this satirical humor are some real, social and spatial issues. Buying a house or renting a place is in part an analysis of the structure itself, but value is ascribed to the geographic context of the home (as real estate agents say the three most import factors are: location, location, location). Many parents are especially concerned about choosing the ‘right’ neighborhood and that drives the housing market. Local amenities, schools, shopping, demographic profiles, income, crime rates, land use mix…a play a role in shaping the context in how people perceive the neighborhood’s desirability.