Tuesday, August 29, 2006

City Rankings

News articles often report "rankings" of cities.

Morgan Quinto Press, for example, does many different rankings. You can find the Safest City (Newton MA), the Most Dangerous City (Camden NJ), the Best Place to Live (Charlottesville NM, followed in second place by Sante Fe NM), the Most Stressful City (Tacoma WA), the Least Stressful (Albany-Schenectady-Troy NY, tied with Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle PA). (Maybe regions defined by three city names promote composure??) Forbes.com recently drew attention to itself with its ratings of cities by alcohol consumption; it also creates ranks on items like "pro-business."

Someday, maybe, I'll work with some others to identify guidelines for using these rankings. Certainly, it's "let the reader beware" because all rankings are not necessarily valid. Off the top of my head, some tips for assessing the value/validity of city rankings are:

1. Understand what information the creator of the rankings uses to construct the rankings.

2. Do you find that information credible/reliable? Information from a standard source, e.g., Census data, public health statistics, is typically more reliable than small, one-time surveys.

3. Is the information relevant? For example, a city ranking index that includes the percapita number of boats is relevant to your quality of life if you like boating, but probably a weak measure if you do not.

4. What cities are included? All medium and large cities, for example, or did the index creator just start with a few? (If a specific city is not ranked, then you can't assume anything about its place in the "top 10".)

Used wisely, well-designed city rankings can provide valuable insight for thinking about what can improve quality of life. However, poorly designed rankings can mislead.

1 comment:

KateMV said...

I visited that Morgan-Quinto site and it was very interesting. I agree with your cautionary notes.