Looking for Love 

Memphis scores poorly in ability to attract singles.

Perhaps Memphis needs its own personal ad: "MIXED-RACE CITY ISO singles ranging in age from mid-20s to early 30s. The city offers rich musical history, affordable housing, and the best barbecue in the world."

In a recent national study on cities' abilities to attract singles, Memphis and the metropolitan area came in number 70 out of the 100 largest U.S. cities.

"Memphis is a work in progress," says Bert Sperling, the president of Sperling's Best Places, the company that conducted the research for Worldwide ERC and Primacy Relocation's 2008 Best Cities for Relocating Singles.

"When it comes to the best places to live these days, Memphis isn't usually one of the first places people think of. It has a nasty crime rate and that tends to hurt a city in studies like ours," Sperling says.

For comparison, Little Rock ranked 35, and Nashville came in at number 41.

The fifth annual study looked at economic factors such as unemployment, job growth, and affordable housing. It also took into account adventure opportunities, prevalence of bars and restaurants, health clubs, and sporting events. Weather, crime rate, and the number of residents who subscribe to an online dating service factored in, as well.

"We gave cities an arts and recreation score based on the number of museums with an ability to attract significant traveling exhibits," Sperling says. "And we looked at sporting events because that's a great place to take a date."

Sperling says Memphis rated a four out of 10 for arts amenities.

Memphis resident Rachel Stinson relocated here from Batesville, Arkansas, in 2004 to attend Rhodes College and now works in human resources for Target.

"I don't go to clubs, so I'd rather meet someone at a cultural event, such as at the Orpheum or the Cannon Center or the Brooks [Museum of Art]," Stinson says. "But when I'm visiting those places, it seems like everyone there is already there with a date."

Stinson doesn't subscribe to an online dating service, but she says she does get plenty of offers through MySpace. So far, though, none of them has panned out.

"On my profile page, I wrote that I voted for Obama, and a few days ago, I got a message from a guy that said: 'I voted for Obama too. Wanna have lunch? Call me,'" Stinson says. "I deleted the message without even checking his profile."

Rob France, a 24-year-old instructor with the Teach for America program, moved here from Wilmington, Delaware, in 2006. He says finding dates in Memphis hasn't been a problem.

"It's kind of a difficult city to break in and get to know people, but when I first moved here I was pretty busy in the classroom," France says. "Now I'm settled in, and it's a lot easier to meet people."

Though Memphis scored low in the study, Sperling says Memphis has done a good job at retaining young people. The percentage of singles in Memphis ages 25 to 34 is on par with the national average.

"This is a snapshot in time, and overall I think Memphis is improving," Sperling says. "It's not like Detroit, which is not doing well at all. Memphis is actually making progress in becoming a better place to live."

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