By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
Missoula’s top national rankings for its startup activity and wide array of breweries are no secret, but the city’s ranking as one of the best places for being single may come as a surprise.
A new study by SmartAsset – a financial data company founded by a Princeton University graduate and a data technician for high-end investment banks – ranked Missoula fourth in its 2017 study, “The Best Cities for Singles (Who Like Being Single).”
To compile its list, SmartAsset pulled census data to rank the 559 largest U.S. cities across five different categories, including marriage rate, median monthly rent and unemployment. It also looked at the number of bars and establishments per 100,000 residents.
“Missoula has a lot to offer singles who enjoy socializing and spending time with their friends,” the study noted. “There are more than 100 entertainment establishments for every 100,000 residents.”
A similar study released by SmartAsset last December ranked Missoula among the top 10 “Best Cities for Beer Drinkers.” That study suggested Missoula had 8.4 microbreweries and 35.7 bars per 100,000 residents.
Perhaps beer drinking and being single go hand in hand.
“There are more than 35 bars in the city for every 100,000 people,” the new study says. “Those are both top 20 scores in our study. Plus, Missoula singles will be in good company since the city has a fairly high percentage of adult residents who are not married, at 59 percent.”
While not all attention is good attention, Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Missoula Downtown Business Improvement District, said it’s fun to see the Garden City recognized as a great place to live and visit.
“I don’t know if recognition as a place for singles is good, bad or indifferent,” McCarthy said. “If I were single, I think it would be a good thing. I think part of that is directed toward university towns.”
More than half of the top 10 cities listed in the current study are considered college towns. But Missoula’s vibrant downtown district helps as well, with its diversity of bars and restaurants. The city’s sports scene was also noted in the study.
“I think our vibrant downtown is a draw for everybody,” said McCarthy. “It’s where you discover the uniqueness of Missoula. It’s where the arts and culture scene is, and the foodie scene. We’ve seen tons of growth in food and beverage over the past five years.”
The top five cities listed in the study include Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota; Missoula; and a tie for fifth between Lawrence, Kansas, and Green Bay.
According to the study, census data suggests that 61 percent of Eau Claire’s population is unmarried.
“If most of your friends are single, there may be little to no pressure to tie the knot,” the study says. “Eau Claire also has the lowest unemployment rate in our entire study at 1.8 percent. Since the city’s job market is so strong, singles who want to focus on their careers should have access to plenty of job opportunities.”
By comparison, Missoula’s unemployment rate is roughly 3.4 percent.