Apr 16, 2015 - News

Census app Dwellr (kinda) knows where you should live



If you’re unsure of your place in the world, the U.S. Census Bureau says it can show you the way home.

Specifically, the bureau claims its dwellr app can show you the top 25 places in the country that best fit your lifestyle, based on your answers to a series of questions and using statistics from the American Community Survey, which provides information on more than 40 topics for every neighborhood in the nation.

From the bureau’s dwellr site:

“Whether you prefer the bright lights of the big city or wide open spaces, dwellr powers your phone with neighborhood-level statistics on topics such as home values, education, and how people get to work so that you can explore where you want to dwell. Once you’ve found your dream neighborhood, take dwellr with you wherever you go.”

That’s some hefty hype.

I’m a native Charlottean who has no desire to live anywhere else, but I gave the app a try to see whether it would match me with the Queen City or its closest suburbs.

Along with basic info such as gender and marital status, the app also seeks preferences including:

  • Ideal community size
  • Region of the U.S.
  • Occupation (oddly posed as “dream job”)
  • Commuting (bike vs. car vs. public transportation, etc.)
  • Climate
  • Community makeup (singles vs. families with children vs. retirees, etc.)

It’s certainly not comprehensive — there are no questions about religious beliefs, education opportunities, entertainment or recreation options — but it’s a decent overview nonetheless.

I tested it twice, answering all questions the same except for my living preference — the first time I chose “suburb,” the second time “big city.”

The results for “suburb” were pretty close: It said I’d feel most at home in Marvin, a Union County town not far from where I live now (Stallings). The second option was Waxhaw, also in Union County. Other suburban options in the top 25 included Tega Cay, S.C. (I used to live in Fort Mill) and Apex (I also briefly lived there). Both were great, so this was a pretty accurate snapshot.

The result for “big city” was a 100 percent match: It said I’d feel most at home in Charlotte. So true. I lived in the city for 25 years. I went to school there. I still work there, worship there, shop there and visit family there. Charlotte (and immediate suburbs) will always be home. So, score one for the Census Bureau.

Because dwellr uses your phone’s GPS, it claims to offer loads of information about wherever you are, supposedly broken down to the neighborhood level. So, in theory, you could use this while on vacation or just while out and about to learn more about the places you visit. But every time I tried to use this option, dwellr spent a lot of time “thinking” and never actually gave me any information (I gave up after an hour).

Still, the app has potential, especially if it breaks things down at the neighborhood level (think of its use when buying a home or opening a business). However, I don’t think anyone would actually make a major life relocation based solely on its suggestions (not nearly comprehensive enough), but at the very least it’s a fun way to affirm the location you’ve already chosen. I suppose one could be unhappy in the Charlotte area and use it to brainstorm other places to live. But there’s nobody out there like that, right? RIGHT?!


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