Albany is the Most Average City in America

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Annie Lowrey asks: What is the most perfectly average place in America? Tyler Cowen nominates Knoxville. Matt Yglesias nominates Jacksonville. As a former marketing weenie, I say we should let the free market decide. Back in 2004, Acxiom ranked the top 150 consumer test markets in the United States based on their overall characteristics: age, marital status, home ownership, estimated income, etc. America’s Fortune 500 companies put their money where their mouths are by conducting expensive and critical tests of their yummy new products in these aggressively average cities. Here are the top ten:

  1. Albany, NY
  2. Rochester, NY
  3. Greensboro, NC
  4. Birmingham, AL
  5. Syracuse, NY
  6. Charlotte, NC
  7. Nashville, TN
  8. Springfield, OR
  9. Wichita, KS
  10. Richmond, VA

In fairness, there’s more than just averageness that makes for a good test market. You also want a place that’s not too big and has reasonable advertising rates. Here is Neeli Bandapudi of Ohio State University explaining on NPR why Columbus is a pretty good test market:

So Columbus, Middle America, it was the idea that it truly was representative of the broader trends of the nation. And, of course, it’s not just that. You want to make sure that it’s a location where it’s not dominated by one employer or one cause, because you want to get a variety of opinions there. Maybe it’s the demographics of the people that you’re trying to reach and also a variety of shopping outlets and a variety of media outlets, so you can see how it would actually play.

Because advertising — there’s no point in just putting it in the store. You got to let people know it’s there.

Indeed. Without that, you know, you might not be very successful.

Anyway, there you go. The free market has answered this question for us. Isn’t the free market wonderful?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend