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WalletHub ranking Richmond

Some folks seem a little preoccupied with a recent article on the financial product & services website WalletHub that gives Richmond a poor showing in a list of “Best Small Cities in America.” You can read the article here.

First, there are some things about reporting on this that are a little misleading. Kicks96 typically used the sensational headline “Only Gary is Worse Than Richmond” and incorrectly stated that “the only Indiana city worse than Richmond is Gary.” (According to the study, both Muncie and Gary rank lower than Richmond.) Also, Richmond’s “Safety Rank” category, which is responsible for 1/5th of the total score in this methodology, is missing data. It’s not clear if that means Richmond just lost those 20 points because the report’s author couldn’t find the information they wanted, or if the score was somehow weighted to account for that. I’ve contacted the author for clarification but have not yet received a reply.

Second, the ranking system used is a pretty over-simplified way of presenting what’s “best” and there are plenty of other ways to read the data. For example, Richmond comes out as 7th in the cities they profiled for Quality of Life. But no one seems to want to write a “Richmond Among Top 10 Indiana Small Cities for Quality of Life” headline. Some of the stats are questionable in their utility; “Number of Bars per Capita” isn’t necessarily something people would want a high number for when thinking about where to live. “If we can just get to one bar per person our town will be so AWESOME!” No.

But most importantly, this is one relatively subjective presentation of a bunch of data that was already out there for the viewing, assembled to generate website traffic for a business that makes money by selling you credit cards and loans. You might also know this as “clickbait.” At the same time they’re ranking cities based on things like “Percentage of Residents Living Below Poverty Level” they’re also selling some services that tend to hurt, not help, people who are struggling financially. I don’t find it helpful to spend our time and energy bemoaning someone else’s ranking of Richmond when they have probably not been here and are probably not invested in anything we’re doing to make it a better place.

Is it good to analyze data in our decision-making about community improvement? Of course. Would it be great to have more coffee shops, museums and performing arts centers here? Sure. Do we need to improve our schools, reduce adult obesity, and increase income levels? Yes. But we should pursue those things because it’s what we want, not because it will change one company’s ranking of Richmond in a sea of other cities working on their own issues.

Don’t waste energy worrying about articles like this that don’t move our city forward. Don’t engage with people who just want to use this oversimplified narrative to make smug proclamations about how bad things are.

Let’s talk about how to get where we want to go.


Photo by wackystuff

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