New Ranking a Family Plot?

Nearly a month after Pittsburgh was named "America’s Most Livable City" by Forbes magazine it has been named the 7th "Best Place to Raise a Family" by the same publication. Not top honors, but enough to warrant a quote or two from local leaders including the Mayor, though both rankings cover the seven county metro area.

This year’s methodology for ranking family-friendly places used the largest 100 metro areas and drew upon cost of living, home ownership, median household income, commute times, crime rate, and graduation rates. Given a similar sample and a lot of the same indicators it is easy to see why there was considerable overlap on the two recent Forbes’ tabulations. Only one place named in the top five most livable did not make it in the top ten best places to raise a family (Ann Arbor, MI).

But a quick look at the previous best family ranking in 2008 shows an entirely different picture: instead of metros, the magazine used counties over 65k in population. They also tried to construct a method of seeing how well public schools were funded by using only those counties where more than half of funding came from property taxes. They paid more attention to SAT scores as well as home prices and air quality in addition to the more conventional indicators of crime rate, commute, and per capita income.

The result: a completely different picture of the best places to raise a family in a two year time span. Only one state-Pennsylvania-had a place make it on to the top ten list in both years. Two years ago, two southeastern PA counties (Chester and Montgomery) made it, while this year the Pittsburgh and Harrisburg metros were on the list. There is no overlap beyond that. The best places from two years ago come from states that did not even have a metro area make it onto this year’s list.