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At last count, there were over 500 rankings that pit cities around the world against each other: from the most intricately measured quality of life indices, to infographics of how often postal workers get attacked by dogs.
As cities look to compete globally, the business of ranking cities has grown. In much the same way that sports clubs will pay eye-watering sums for star players to win the top prize, urban managers will buy in "starchitects", global consultancy firms and PR companies, to help them climb these city league tables.
Prize - Prices - Housing - Services - Transport
Yet the only prize for reaching the top appears to be rocketing prices for housing, services, transport and food. Indeed, many cities at the top of the tables experience pronounced inequality. Frankfurt, for example, is ranked seventh in the Mercer Quality of Life rankings, while also scoring high for inequality. London also tends to do quite well (despite never really excelling), yet according to the UN, East London has the highest income inequality on the planet.
Though some efforts are being made to address the flaws in city rankings, they continue to be touted as a viable means of urban analysis. But as someone who scrutinizes cities closely and researches the people who live in them, I think it's time to ignore city rankings because they do more harm than good.
Thing - % - Rankings - City - Governments—the
For one thing, only 1% of these rankings are conducted by city governments—the rest are run by private companies. As such, there's a risk that focus and funding can be diverted from the issues that matter to citizens, as city authorities aim to appease the rankings criteria and promote themselves on the global stage.
For example, while austerity continues to bite in the UK, the Greater London Authority's communications budget has doubled since 2009. All the while, rankings only ever identify a potential problem,...
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