Tuesday, June 09, 2009

ever more livable?

To go with the G20 theme... everything is related to G20 don't you know? I'm not spending $250 for the full report, but news accounts say Pittsburgh ranks 29th among regions globally in a new report put out by the Economist Intelligence Unit. So it's not 29th just among US places, but 29th compared to places around the world. I'm not quite sure how many US regions ranked high at all. Might not be many. Here is what the WSJ Numbers Guy said about the ranking two years ago when we aparently ranked 26th and were tied with Cleveland?? Go figure that. So we have actually moved down a bit??

Reminds me of another old comment here. Pittsburgh has a funny place in the history of livability surveys. Yes, someone will someday write a 'history of livability surveys' at this rate.

The first time Pittsburgh came out on top of the (then Rand-McNally) Places Rated Almanac based on 'livability'..... When was that? 1985 of course. So somehow in the midst of the worst economic decline for a major American region in the peacetime history of the US, we were somehow the best place to live, work and play. That made so much sense that it prompted Professor of Psychology Geoff Loftus of Washington University to write an article in Psychology Today in 1985 about how screwed up the ranking system must have been*. Basically he explained how survey based ordinal rankings of preferences really added diminishing information beyond the top picks. Pittsburgh didn't really come out on top in 1985 because it excelled in any one category, it was sort of moderately ok across the board. Thus, according to Professor Loftus, the Pittsburgh #1 ranking was really an artifact of over-interpretation of the data. Just one contrarian voice? Maybe, but it turns out that the Places Rated publisher David Savageau was so taken by Professor Loftus' critique of the system that he brought him onboard and became co-author of the almanac in 1996.

* Loftus, G.R. (1985). Say it ain't Pittsburgh. Psychology Today, June, pp. 8-10.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't see this mentioned explicitly in your post, but Pittsburgh was indeed the top US city.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009 5:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for Jake Haulk to trash every fiber of Pittsburgh's being again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 8:54:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You bring up an interesting point about the collection of ordinal rankings.

The ubiquitous Forbes rankings ("Top City to be a Pet Owner", etc.) pretty much just do this. They figure out four or five factors "relevant" to their topic, do an ordinal ranking of each, and then sum the ranking to get a list of the "top cities". Such a ranking produces a list that mostly fits in to peoples' expectations, but with some outliers, which is I guess exactly what they're looking for.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 4:45:00 PM  

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