The Case of the Disappearing Metros

Since May of 2007, Pittsburgh (the seven county metro area) has been ranked the "most livable City" by three separate publications: Places Rated Almanac, The Economist, and yesterday, Forbes.

The Forbes ranking comprised five areas on which Pittsburgh scored in the top 50 on three-crime, income growth, and arts and leisure. Averaged together, the Pittsburgh region comes out on top.

Consider that just a year ago Pittsburgh was ranked tenth by Forbes. That ranking certainly did not make local news. Now it has catapulted to first and boosters have seized on the rating. Last year’s top five metros have been replaced by an entirely new list which leads one to ask-what changed?

A quick review of the "Behind the Numbers" sections in the 2009 and 2010 articles on Forbes’ website seems to indicate one major change. In 2009 the sample size was 379 metro areas; this year, the top 200 metros were utilized.

Eliminating 179 metro areas certainly can have an impact on a ranking sample. Top performers from last year or those that may be improving may have been left out of the measurement entirely this year. Pittsburgh remained around the same level for culture and crime (37th last year to 26th this year and 45th last year to 15th this year, respectively) but it shot up on cost of living (147th to 52nd) and up dramatically on income growth (269th last year to 20th this year).

As we have stated before, the proof of whether the latest ranking of livability proves the old adage of "the third time is the charm".