CEOs for Cities

Tracking 29 indicators of urban success.

There's no universally accepted definition of urban success in the 21st century. But a new report offers up more than two dozen indicators that cities might want to use to measure themselves.

Through a variety of lenses, City Vitals 2.0 looks at the country's 51 largest metropolitan areas to try to show in which areas cities and metros are doing well and how they might be able to catch up in others. The report is from CEOs for Cities, the "civic innovation lab" focused on building and improving U.S. cities.

Using 29 different indicators, the report examines a host of factors that play a role in determining the economic and cultural health of a metropolitan area. Topics include connectivity, innovation, talent, distinctiveness, vitality, and more.

One key indicator is community involvement, measured as the percentage of the population that reports volunteering for community activities. Salt Lake City comes out on top, with more than 42 percent, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. Entrepreneurship is measured as the percentage of residents who are self-employed. The metro areas of Miami, San Francisco, and San Diego have the most self-employed residents. Another metric looks at the ratio of ethnic restaurants to fast-food restaurants. New York, San Francisco, and Boston come out on top on that measure, while Birmingham, Memphis, and Louisville fall to the bottom.

The point of all these rankings and indicators, according to report author Joe Cortright, is to "illuminate and better define the discussion of what it takes to build a successful metropolitan economy." There's no "winner" in all of this, though CEO for Cities found that a handful of metros are often at or near the top across multiple measures, including San Francisco, Miami, San Jose, New York, and Chicago.

Rankings aren't always the best way to understand metropolitan success and vitality, and this report doesn't claim they are. Still it is interesting – and maybe even instructive – to see how metros stack up against one another through these various indicators.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    Let's All Swim in the Once-Filthy Canals of Paris

    Unlike many cities, the French capital has made good on its promise to re-open urban waterways to bathers. How did they do it?  

  2. Transportation

    5 Reasons to Be Wary of Elon Musk's Hyperloop

    High-speed vactrains might be the ticket for a Martian colony. As a practical transit investment for Earth, the technology has a long way to go.

  3. Uber drivers sit in their cars waiting for passengers.
    Equity

    What Uber Drivers Say About Uber

    Researchers conducted in-depth interviews and discovered a lot about the pitfalls of working in the rideshare business.

  4. The Salk Institute, near San Diego
    Design

    This Is Your Brain on Architecture

    In her new book, Sarah Williams Goldhagen presents scientific evidence for why some buildings delight us and others—too many of them—disappoint.

  5. Equity

    Too Many People Are Calling 911. Here's a Better Way.

    Memphis is working on an alternative for the expensive “you-call, we-haul” approach.