Cities that Purchase Lots of Sweatpants: More “Comfortable”—or just Colder and Younger?

Experian Marketing Services recently identified the top 20 supposedly most “comfortable” cities in the United States.  Experian based their list on a survey in which respondents reported whether they purchased any sweatpants in the last 12 months.  Using sweatpants customers per capita, the most “comfortable” cities are as follows:

  1. Philadelphia, PA
  2. Hartford, CT
  3. Pittsburgh, PA
  4. Lafayette, LA
  5. Laredo, TX
  6. Boston, MA
  7. New York, NY
  8. Los Angeles, CA
  9. Victoria, TX
  10. Scranton, PA
  11. Salt Lake City, UT
  12. Marquette, MI
  13. Milwaukee, WI
  14. Washington, DC
  15. Austin, TX
  16. Watertown, MA
  17. Jacksonville, FL
  18. Idaho Falls, ID
  19. Providence, RI
  20. Chicago, IL

Experian believes that consumption of sweatpants is a proxy for comfort. After all, sweatpants are comfortable, and wearing them generally connotes a laid-back lifestyle. However, the choice to wear sweatpants is not only determined by the wearer’s desire for comfort. Several other factors are also associated with wearing sweatpants, including (i) climate—sweatpants are generally worn in cooler weather, and (ii) age—young people (especially university students) frequently wear sweatpants.

Of the 20 cities listed, only 6 have moderate climates (defined as an average monthly temperature above 40 degrees in January).  Moreover, of those cities with moderate climates several have large student populations (e.g. Austin and Lafayette).  Theoretically, high unemployment might be an additional factor that could explain increased sweatpants consumption.  However, the average unemployment for the top 20 cities is 7.7%, slightly below the national average.

Instead of measuring comfort, Experian hasn’t measured anything besides sweatpants consumption.  Unless other factors are considered and controlled (using techniques like regression analysis), we should not make any inferences about cities’ relative levels of comfort.

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