Interesting News, Possibly With Bias

by Don Friedman on December 21, 2015

A recent report compares cities around the world and comes to the conclusion that New York is “number one for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.” The report, City Initiatives for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CITIE), uses none points of comparison for actions taken by the city governments to “support innovation and entrepreneurship” and presumably all other good things. As might be expected with such news, the NYC Economic Development Corporation is promoting the good news.

So far so good, although an obvious problem with the subject comes to mind: a lot of regulation and a lot of the way that a local government interacts with business is influenced, if not determined, by larger governments. In the US, that means the states and the federal government. So the rankings may be affected by factors that the city governments can’t control.

The bigger issue that made me wonder is bias on the part of the researchers. The study was a joint effort by three organizations: Nesta, Future Cities Catapult, and Accenture. The first two are located in London, the third has offices all over the world, is now officially headquartered in Ireland, and has a long history in Chicago. The top two cities in the study: New York and London. Putting aside any sibling rivalry between New York and Chicago, it seems to me that the results fairly show the values of the researchers. As it happens, I share those values – I like big, complicated, busy cities – but those are not the only values that exist. So while the report is interesting reading, I think it’s better read as a guide to what a certain view of a good city is that as a ranking that has a real meaning.

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