Pittsburgh was one of 150 cities analyzed by WalletHub’s Best Run Cities list. Out of 150 cities, it was ranked 103rd overall. The organization used “six key categories” (financial stability, education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure/pollution) and used 25 separate metrics under those categories. Scores ranged from 0 to 100 “with 100 representing the most optimal city management” according to the organization’s methodology explanation.
One could see tasking “city management” with debt per capita (a metric under financial stability) and possibly even safety metrics (crime rates) but high school graduation rates? Or Average life expectancy? Or average commute time? Sure, on many of these measurements some public sector hand is involved, but WalletHub utilizes “the total budget per capita amount for each city” in order to measure effectiveness and rank the cities.
So Pittsburgh’s 2016 budget ($518.9 million) and its population (305 thousand) results in per capita spending of $1,701 but why assign that spending to items that the City does not directly manage or fund?
That WalletHub’s highest score for Pittsburgh out of the six categories came on education (15th out of 150 cities) is dubious due to what the organization measured and how its spokesperson addressed its findings in the media.
Education, like the other five categories, had a possible 16.66 points in play. Two metrics were used: first “Great Schools Score: Full Weight (8.33 points)” and second “high school graduation rate: full Weight (8.33 points)”. A quick look at the website of Great Schools shows that the District was given a rating of 3 out of 10. A look at the Pennsylvania Department of Education website on cohort graduation rate shows that for 2014-15 the four year cohort graduation rate for the Pittsburgh Public Schools was 70.44 percent. In 2013-14 it was 73.59 percent, in 2012-13 it was 77.43 percent.
Yet in a published report on reaction to the rating a spokesperson from the organization said “the city offers a good education system with a top high school graduation rate at 90 percent, 13th best overall”. Obviously something is amiss.
So Pittsburgh’s best ranking comes from service the City itself does not directly manage and seems to be measured inaccurately by the organization doing the ranking.
Other scores were, in descending order, 19 (health), 36 (safety), 48 (infrastructure/pollution), 76 (economy), and 144 (financial stability).