Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Saddest Cities, Manliest Cities, And More Silly Rankings

I've vented my opinion on the disturbing trend to rank cities using increasingly silly criteria (see the crack research staff that brought you America's Drunkest Cities.) Now two new rankings have hit my desk, and I thought I'd share their methodologies with you.

First, from Business Week comes a report on America's Unhappiest Cities (not to be confused with's America's Most Miserable Cities.) (Portland, Oregon's the Unhappiest City, and Stockton, California's the Most Miserable. The lists look nothing alike.)

Here's the Unhappiest Cities Methodology: ranked 50 of the largest metros based on a variety of factors including depression rates, suicide rates, divorce rates, crime, unemployment, population loss, job loss, weather and green space. The most heavily weighted factors were the depression, suicide, jobs (unemployment and job loss) and crime rates. The depression rate is based on survey and aggregated insurance reporting information at time of discharge, doctor's office visits and insurance process filings. The suicide rate is for 2004 and comes from The 2007 Big Cities Health Inventory compiled by the National Assembly of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO). The crime risk indexes for property and crime used for the scoring were based on FBI crime reporting for the seven most-recent available years. Divorce rates and 2009 population change come from the U.S. Census. The number of cloudy days came from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

And the Most Miserable Cities methodology:

We compiled our rankings by looking at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., which meant those with a population of at least 378,000. We ranked those metros on nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

For this year's ranking, we added the corruption component. We used the criminal conviction of government officials in each area over the past decade as compiled by the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice.

But that's nothing compared to this list of America's Manliest Cities, with this indicator set developed by the people who put the cheesy stuff inside a crunchy snack and call it Combos (I wasn't aware they still sold them):

The Manly Methodology

The rankings were determined using 50 of the largest metropolitan areas as defined by the United States Census Bureau, which includes a central city and the surrounding county (or counties).

Each metro area received a manliness rating between 0 and 100 based on how well it performed in each of the study's manly categories. Factors used to determine the manliest city rankings included the number of U.S.-made cars driven in the city, number of sports bars and BBQ restaurants, number of home improvement and hardware stores as well as manly salty snacks consumption. All data was adjusted by the current population of the cities to arrive at "per capita" figures, providing an accurate comparison between cities of varying sizes.

"America's Manliest Cities"

1. Nashville, Tenn.
2. Charlotte, N.C.
3. Oklahoma City, Okla.
4. Cincinnati, Ohio
5. Denver, Colo.
6. St. Louis, Mo.
7. Columbus, Ohio
8. Kansas City, Mo.
9. Indianapolis, Ind.
10. Toledo, Ohio

Now aren't you feeling a little happier (and more rugged) for knowing this? What other city rankings (useful or ridiculous) do you enjoy?

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