Pittsburgh Takes the Prize: Can It Keep It?

Officials in Nashville are mad. They just saw the most recent ranking from moving company U-Haul that ranks "growth cities" which are "…determined by calculating the percentage of inbound moves vs. outbound moves for each area." The Music City has been dethroned by the Steel City, with the company noting Pittsburgh had a 9% rate in 2012.

Actually there has been no news out of Nashville (it finished 8th in 2012) because of a phenomenon noted in a 2007 Brief we did when Pittsburgh was named "America’s Most Livable City": when a city-to-city or metro-to-metro list or ranking of "most" or "best" is put together it is often dubious. The London Times stated "the publication of the Almanac sets off a round of preening from mayors of winning cities and huffing and puffing from the losers." One has to wonder if losers or runners up even bother to fume at all.

The company has produced the ranking at least as far back as 2008 and if patterns hold taking first place as a growth city is fairly volatile: only Santa Monica has repeated as a first place finisher (in 2009 and 2010); Nashville appeared in 9th place in 2008, disappeared from the top ten in 2009 and 2010, and then finished first last year; 2008‘s winner Wichita has not been in the top ten since that year. A handful of cities-Austin, New York City, San Francisco, and Oakland-have appeared more than once in the top ten. (The company also produces a destination city ranking based on a person making a move to a city of more than 50 miles away from the origination point and does not take into consideration the percentage of inbound and outbound moves like the growth city methodology, and Houston has finished first in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012).

We also pointed out in 2007 the best measure of the attractiveness of a place is whether people stay or leave. Recent numbers show that the metro area and Allegheny County are seeing a small uptick in population (0.2 in the metro, 0.5 in the County from April 2010 through July 2012). When the net domestic migration as a proportion of total population for the 25 largest metros was measured from July 2011 to July 2012 the region did better that Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and seven others but rose slower than fourteen other regions including Tampa, Seattle, and San Antonio.