City Ranking Actually Do Change Our Opinions

The safest cities. The best cities. The happiest cities. We see the rankings all the time. But do they matter. Yes, says Samuel Arbesman, who surveyed 310 US residents by using Amazon's Mechanical Turk service.

1 minute read

January 6, 2012, 12:00 PM PST

By Chris Steins @planetizen


"Are our opinions of cities actually affected by statistics and rankings?... What we found is that our initial perceptions about cities are in fact often grounded in statistical reality. The positive or negative opinions of our survey respondents were correlated, often quite strongly, with such metrics as change in population, housing prices, and cost of living, and inversely correlated with measures like crime and unemployment. On the other hand, measures such as sales tax and traffic congestion appear to have little influence on people's perceptions of different cities," writes author and researcher Samuel Arbesman, a senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation.

Also interesting is that this survey was conducted using respondents from Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online labor market for micro-tasks. Arbesman also notes about this approach, "Recently, social scientists have realized that MTurk can be an amazing testbed for social experiments, ranging from behavioral economics to network science. It can also be used for surveys."

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