I have read more city ranking lists than I can remember. They are sometimes valuable in making certain types of decisions or in assessing quality of life and work. That said, the statistician in me always looks carefully at the methodologies involved because many things can change depending on those methodologies. Therefore, I have learned to receive the ranking data for what it is worth. I view it more as a collection of comparative observations rather than a rigidly ranked data set.
To that point, I was heartened to see what Dane Stangler (the vice president of research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation) said recently. Speaking on a panel concerning Kansas City’s future, he affirmed (Greg Hack, “Kansas City’s Business and Cultural Scene: A Rival to Austin? Vibrant Hub Emerging” The Kansas City Star, April 15, 2014, pp. C1, C6, C7):
“‘I don’t put too much stock [in various city rankings because] you can tweak one small thing and get greatly different results.’” (C6)
Rankings are great when you want to run through some quick mental comparisons. Just realize they never tell the whole story. A ranking alone does not a city make.