It's challenging to try and compare Houston to all other American cities, but comparing Houston to Austin is helpful, especially if Austin is 'the best' according to U.S. News and World Report. Creative professionals in Houston usually have some direct experience of Austin, so personal knowledge can come into play.
- Should Houston try and become more like Austin?
- Are the differences in geography always going to hold Houston back?
- Is the general American perception of Austin any more accurate than the perception of Houston?
- Are there subtle differences between the way the general population sees these two cities and how creatives, entrepreneurs and innovators see the cities?
- Has the popularity of Austin among employers (especially technology companies) created a momentum that forces Houston to fight back against a 'rising tide'?
- Is Houston doing as much as it should to leverage its University communities? Does having two well-known but different schools (U of H and Rice) lead to a less focused image?
Hacking the Data
U.S. News's Net Migration number is based on U.S. Census data, but the Desirability is based on an online survey. Their Quality of Life Index is has many components and sources, and you can read about it here: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/methodology
U.S. News & World Report: How We Rank the Best Places to Live & Retire, 2019
Desirability Survey: Using SurveyMonkey, we polled approximately 2,500 people across the country to find out in which of the ranked metro areas they would most like to live. The metro areas were then ranked according to the percentage of the total votes they received.
By the way, Houston was 26th in Best Places to Retire, and Austin was 4th. For retirees, we get closer together.