Austin vs. Chicago
November 29, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Which city is a better place for a divorced woman in her early 40s to find a male partner (mid-30s to late 40s, roughly); a group of likeminded liberal, intellectual friends, and a decent technical writing job -- Austin or Chicago?

I am starting over and would like advice about where to go to begin this new chapter of my life, which will focus on professional and relational development. These two cities are at the top of my list based on research I've already done, and now I'm looking for people from both locations to give me their take on which would be more suitable for me. Thanks, MeFi!
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you're just running the odds, Chicago is much bigger and therefore has a larger potential dating pool. I would suggest, however, that you're more likely to find what you're looking for in a city in which you are happy. Austin and Chicago are really, really different, and it might make more sense to look at them in terms of other factors first.

Then again, you could just look for jobs in both places and see what comes up. Austin's not doing as badly as it might, economically, but there's still a ton of competition for what jobs there are.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

In the experience of my own friends, Chicago. Easier to find jobs, a much larger dating pool, a less stratified social scene.

My friends who have lived in Austin have experienced a very fragmented social scene among people in their 30s and 40s--there are the yuppified married folks, the "Keep Austin Weird" gang, the country music crowd, the acoustic Kerrville types, the State House people, the museum posse, and very hermetic social communities around each of the local colleges and universities.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on November 29, 2010

It's kind of old, but here is a singles map of the US that would suggest that Austin is the better bet.
posted by 517 at 10:22 AM on November 29, 2010

Seconding restless_nomad: Chicago is going to have more of just about everything except Texans, empty space, and days where it hits 90F. Seriously, Austin has about 25% more land area than Chicago but only 25% of Chicago's population. This is going to have an enormous effect on the feel of the city, and I'd say that that's going to be far more important than whether you can find a group of "likeminded liberal, intellectual friends." You can find those people in almost any major urban area if you look hard enough, but I don't think I can overstate the difference between 12,500 people/sq. mi. in a place where it can spend two straight months below freezing and 3,100 people/sq. mi. in a place where it may never freeze.

Austin also has the somewhat unusual trait of being a predominantly "blue" area in perhaps the most Republican state in the union. That's going to have a pretty big effect on the flavor of said "intellectual liberal" friends.
posted by valkyryn at 10:42 AM on November 29, 2010

I've lived in both cities (Austin for under 10 years in the 90's and Chicago for most of the rest of my adult life). Feel free to shoot me an email if you want my opinions about living, dating, and meats of our cultural stew in both places.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2010

It's kind of old, but here is a singles map of the US that would suggest that Austin is the better bet.

Here's an interactive version where you can adjust for age and where the numbers are more normalized. Austin still shows up as having more single men in the mid thirties to late forties range.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:59 AM on November 29, 2010

Can't comment on Chicago, but I go to Austin as often as possible. My loose plan is to move to the area in a few years or so, find a guy if I haven't already, make interesting new friends in the area, and continue my career. So, for what it's worth, at this moment in time I'm banking on moving to Austin for similar goals as you are for wanting to move to Austin or Chicago.

I love Austin and the surrounding area with an almost child-like fervor. I can't think of any place in Texas I'd rather live. Then again, I've only ever visited for days at a time, so I'm sure my lack of deep familiarity with the place blurs its problems. And I've lived four hours away from Austin (in Southeast Texas) my whole life, so I might just be blinded by the glare.
posted by kryptondog at 12:36 PM on November 29, 2010

I live in Austin, and would say there's no shortage of intellectual liberals. However, as valkyryn said, Austin has an interesting relationship with the rest of Texas, and if liberalism is very important to you, you might find living in Texas, even in Austin, challenging. On the other hand, there's a lot to do here, and most of the time Austin's small size makes you feel like you're really part of the community. Also, the differences in climate are something to consider. The heat in the summer can be like a living thing, but I'd take hot over cold any day, so it works for me.
posted by odayoday at 2:25 PM on November 29, 2010

I can't speak for the technical writing job (and really, with the economy in the state it's in, that might be your deciding factor regardless) but Austin is a great city to reinvent yourself in.

My mother is in her 40s, and her husband died fairly recently. She's been able to meet a new group of friends and she's started dating. Most people in Austin are fairly liberal. There's also more of a community in the south in general as opposed to the midwest, in my experience. I have a few friends who moved to Chicago and Cincinnati from Austin, and they complain about how lonely life is there compared to their hometown, whereas people who move to either coasts don't seem to have the same problem.

I really like Chicago, but I've never been there for more than a couple of days at a time, and the winter is pretty unbearable. Also, as someone who's lived in NYC for a while, Austin feels almost suffocatingly small in comparison to Chicago. Also, never forget that you will be living in a little blue enclave in a red state, or your first road trip will be a shock.
posted by jnaps at 4:06 PM on November 29, 2010

I am a (remarried) woman in my early 40s with experience as a tech writer. I'm not currently working for a number of reasons, but if I were looking for a tech writing job, I would be confident in finding something, even if not as quickly as I'd like. Feel free to drop a Memail if you have specific questions and I'll ask around among my tech writer friends and acquaintances.
posted by immlass at 6:54 PM on November 29, 2010

@jnaps: Chicago is also a blue enclave in a red state -- it's just a larger one than Austin. :)

Both cities have weather extremes -- Austin at the hot end, Chicago at the cold end (though it can also get very hot in the summer there, too). So it sort of depends on which extreme you're better at handling, on that front.

Chicago is a larger job market, though many of the technical writing jobs will be in the suburbs, which may mean a long commute if you intend to live in the city proper.

As for like-minded friends and romantic prospects, I have no doubt you'd find plenty of friends, and your chances of finding a partner are probably no different than they are anywhere else.
posted by me3dia at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2010

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