A Better Way to Compare Cities

An online tool released three weeks ago by the Chicago Federal Reserve allows a more nuanced comparison between peer cities.

March 21, 2017, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Tappan Zee Bridge

Enfi / Shutterstock

Pete Saunders is spreading the news about a new tool from the Community Development and Policy Studies department of the Chicago Federal Reserve, which "allows policymakers, planners and researchers to truly identify cities facing similar challenges, and in the process find the ones that may have developed appropriate policy responses."

According to Saunders, the new tool will help improve commonly understudied and under-analyzed comparisons between cities. So, for instance, "[t]he cities of Detroit, Washington, Boston and Portland are nearly identical in population, with fewer than 30,000 people separating them.  Does that make them similar?  Nashville and Memphis are similarly sized and located within the same state, but they're vastly different cities in terms of economy, demographic composition, age, education, housing, and other factors."

The Peer City Identification Tool, as it's called, organizes comparisons into four categories: equity, resilience (in this case, a labor concern), housing, and outlook.  

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