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February 28, 2017
New Web Tool Allows Cities to Find Peers with Similar Challenges

CHICAGO- (February 28, 2017) – A new online tool is now available to help city officials, researchers, developers, investors, employers, and others across the country identify municipalities with similar economic, demographic, and labor characteristics.

A team of staff at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (FRBC) has created the Peer Cities Identification Tool (PCIT), which allows municipal planners, policy professionals, and others to learn which cities around the country are facing similar challenges and opportunities. The hope is that PCIT users will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the conditions they face, and to share information and best practices on potential policy solutions. The tool can also help bankers understand the dynamics of markets where they partner in community development lending and investment.

“The data is easy to use and is presented in a visually accessible fashion,” explained Susan Longworth, a FRBC senior business economist in the Community Development and Policy Studies Department (CDPS) who helped develop the site.

“It is highly interactive,” she said. “We think it will help people have thoughtful discussions and develop solutions about how to address those economic and community development issues they are most interested in. I encourage people to give it a try.”

The site features data on the 300 U.S. cities that had populations of 50,000 or higher in 1960. Users can compare information organized into four different subject areas: Equity, Economic Resilience, Outlook, and Housing. Equity looks at issues such as integration rates, wage inequality, educational attainment of the city’s population and poverty levels. Outlook allows comparison of topics like city demographics and population characteristics. Housing and Economic Resilience areas offer the opportunity to find cities with similar housing or labor characteristics.

Chicago Fed staff members often interact with community and economic development practitioners and bankers, as well as city officials and repeatedly heard an interest in knowing about and learning from other municipalities facing similar challenges. That led to the creation of the tool, explained Longworth.

“We kept hearing that city officials and others were interested in knowing about peers who were facing similar issues, so we started building a web tool that would give them that information,” she explained. “It’s very interesting to use once one starts working with the tool and comparing cities. It’s intended to foster conversations between professionals in different parts of the country. It also might offer a city official a new perspective by learning what other types of municipalities face similar challenges and how those challenges are being addressed.”

The PCIT’s data can be also transformed into easy-to-read charts and downloaded into Excel spreadsheets. We invite you to explore the tool and contact us to learn more: https://chicagofed.org/region/community-development/data/pcit.


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Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Background

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that, along with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., make up the nation’s central bank. The Chicago Reserve Bank serves the Seventh Federal Reserve District, which encompasses the northern portions of Illinois and Indiana, southern Wisconsin, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and the state of Iowa. In addition to participation in the formulation of monetary policy, each Reserve Bank supervises member banks and bank holding companies, provides financial services to depository institutions and the U.S. government, and monitors economic conditions in its District.

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