August 18, 2016
Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear about (and eat up) a new study comparing American cities across an array of urban factors, from public transportation and walkability to Millennial-friendliness, the rental market and unsavory things like bed bugs.
Nowhere near as often do we zoom out and consider Philadelphia's relationship to other cities around the world, partly because of asymmetries between government statistics, cultural preferences and a lower volume of international travel to justify stretch comparisons. Metropolitan areas descend from such disparate paths of long-range historical development, depending on the continent, that even 21st-century globalization hasn't subjected them to effortless side-by-side analysis.
Making this process easier for practical purposes — travel, job-hunting, international communication — is the focus of Teleport, a software company that converts global connections into actionable geographic decisions. One of their main features is a quality of life ranking system for approximately 250 cities worldwide, enabling comparisons and an in-depth look at indexed scores in several subcategories.
It's a fun site to poke around on if you've done much traveling or you're thinking about planning your next trip or move. It also provides some valuable perspective on Philadelphia's place within the larger community of big cities in the world.
We're actually all over the place here in Philadelphia, as you can see in the scores below. Each city is given a rank from 1-10 across 17 quality of life categories, as well as an overall ranking among the cities rated in each particular category.
Housing – 4 (229/250)
Cost of Living – 3 (221/249)
Startups – 8 (33/245)
Venture Capital – 7 (33/112)
Travel Connectivity – 5 (114/250)
Commute – 5 (148/248)
Business Freedom – 8 (75/250)
Safety – 5 (214/250)
Healthcare – 7 (140/250)
Education – 6 (28/221)
Environmental Quality – 5 (163/250)
Economy – 8 (10/248)
Taxation – 3 (244/250)
Internet Access – 8 (19/250)
Leisure & Culture – 5 (77/250)
Tolerance – 7 (143/250)
Outdoors – 3 (185/250)
Some of these rankings may come as a surprise and others are pretty straightforward. The indexed scores provide more of an explanation for each ranking, for those interested, but on the whole Philadelphia comes across as a city with its share of major strengths and major weaknesses. Just six of our scores fall in the mid-range group of cities ranked between 100-200.
These scores become much more interesting when you start putting them side-by-side with, say, Rome or Lima. It's a really great way to get a sense of what the most pressing issues are in any given city and take some time from there to look into them further.
Philly's ranks seem fair, on the whole, except maybe that three on the outdoors. What gives? They'll be singing a much different tune when they see all of these soda tax playgrounds and parks. It's not as if we have much room to drop lower on taxation.