I know you don’t want anecdotes… but as a native Austinite (moved here as a kid in the '80s), I can tell you that you aren’t going to find objective data on Austin.
For instance, you can find out about crime rates here: http://www.austintexas.gov/GIS/CrimeViewer/
But that doesn’t tell the story. Austin’s MSA is about 1.2 million, but it’s without question the safest city I’ve ever lived in (Houston, Atlanta, San Luis Obispo, Boston). Austin is great on PR - just go to the Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (http://www.austintexas.org/) for propaganda. But beneath the veneer of a hipster mecca, we’ve got some issues here.
- There’s a ton of racist and classist history that seeps into the present day. Austin has neighborhoods that are all White and wealthy, and that’s not by accident. Restrictive covenants endured in this city well after many “Deep South” cities abandoned them. See here: http://www.academia.edu/1888949/Austin_Restricted_Progressivism_Zoning_Private_Racial_Covenants_and_the_Making_of_a_Segregated_City
So communities like Tarrytown are lily White and rich, and that’s not by accident. Moreover, until now, the city council was elected at large (except for a “gentlemen’s agreement” that reserves a seat for a Black and Latino member). So city council wannabes raise their money in central and West Austin, and therefore are beholden to those interests. Communities like Dove Springs (where I grew up) have like a 2% voting rate for city council elections, and it shows (infrastructure, schools, services, etc. are lacking). Case in point: there was flooding around Halloween in this area, and there’s been a slow response from the city in helping residents with claims (and cleaning up the area). Shoal Creek floods on a regular basis, and there’s no delay in responses when that happens.
- City infrastructure (highways, buses, and rail) are absolutely the worst in any city I’ve lived in. We have the fourth-worst traffic congestion in the country, which is insane considering the size of the city. (See here: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/In-ranking-of-worst-U-S-traffic-Austin-is-up-4515197.php)
The reason why is that the city council was anti-growth in the 1970s and 1980s. All the hippies wanted to keep Austin weird and tiny, figuring if they invested in saving salamanders rather than building roads or transportation people would stay away. Now they’re trying to play catch up, and we have light rail in Northwest Austin to downtown, it’s nothing like a real rail system (operates Mon-Fri, limited service on Saturday; starts at 5:30 am and last train leaves downtown around 6 pm; doesn’t operate in many of the major neighborhoods and communities - it doesn’t even cross the river). They’re building toll lanes on Mopac (West side N-S artery) and it’s creating havoc on the roads as they’re doing it.
Something like 150 people are moving to Austin a day, and most of them are bringing their cars (or two). I-35 is a dilapidated dinosaur of an interstate; it’s also the major NAFTA highway from Laredo to Duluth, MN. Hence it is congested with 18 wheelers 24 hours a day. My commute from the north boundary of Austin to UT (14 miles) is 35 minutes on a good day, 45 minutes on most.
The best way to get a sense of Austin? The citydata website is suspect. A lot of the info there is from people who never venture outside of their own neighborhoods, and have fearmongering views of certain parts of town - as someone mentioned upthread, there are no really frightening areas of town (except for perhaps the St. John’s neighborhood, and I have no problem walking around there in the middle of the day - but if you’re looking for trouble you can easily find it). I would steer you to the Austin Chronicle: http://www.austinchronicle.com/
They regularly have stories about Austin politics and life. I’m a professor at UT, and as someone who studies inequity in education, Austin has a lot of than on hand. Historian Larry Cuban has written a good book, As Good As It Gets, about how reform has taken shape in Austin. I have a book I need to read called Weird City but some of the critiques on the book are exactly what I’ve mentioned - the ignoring of East (mostly historically minority) Austin. There’s a pretty unsettling history of freed Blacks being moved from Clarksville and Wheatsville (today two of the most affluent, Whitest communities) to East Austin. UT is greatly responsible for this and to this day, there are families who are angry about losing land to the University via eminent domain rules.
Despite this, I still love living here. I grew up here, met my wife here, and we’re raising kids here surrounded by family. (Austin is actually incredibly kid-friendly, with an insane number of parks.) But it’s often advertised as paradise on earth, and it’s a great city with big problems that a lot of people would like to ignore and just count the cash that rolls in during SXSW.