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March 2018
Updated and Expanded Web Tool Helps Cities Find Peers with Similar Challenges

CHICAGO- (March 5, 2018) –The Web-based tool that helps users identify municipalities with similar economic, demographic and labor characteristics has been expanded significantly and now includes data on 960 cities across the U.S.

The Peer Cities Identification Tool (PCIT) was introduced last year by a team of staff members at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (FRBC). It is useful for city officials, researchers, municipal planners, and finance and policy professionals. It now also includes 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) data.

“After the initial release of the tool with 300 cities, we received strong interest from users to include smaller cities and those that had experienced more recent population growth,” explained Susan Longworth, a FRBC Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Department senior business economist who helped develop the site. “This newest version responds to those requests and more than triples the number of cities included in the dataset.”

PCIT users are now able to gain a deeper understanding of the conditions they face and to share information and best practices on potential policy solutions, she added. The tool also helps bankers understand the dynamics of markets where they partner in community development lending and investment.

“Making sure the data is current is a priority,” she said. “We will continue to update the site each year when new Census data is released.”

The site now features data on the 960 U.S. cities that had at least 25,000 in population in the 1960 census or at least 50,000 in population by 2010. This marks a three-fold increase in the database from last year. Users can compare information in 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. The housing and economic resilience categories offer housing or labor data.

FRBC staff members often interact with community and economic development practitioners and bankers, as well as city officials, said 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.”

The Peer Cities Identification Tool has been an excellent way to launch conversations on economic inclusion among local community leaders,” said Alicia Kitsuse, director of the Older Industrial Cities Program at the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.

“Applying a comparative data perspective challenges leaders to broaden their conception of their community and encourages them to think in terms of the story behind the key variables that are driving important community dynamics,” she explained.

The PCIT’s data can also be transformed into easy-to-read charts and downloaded into Excel spreadsheets. To explore the updated tool and learn how to contact the development team, go to:  https://www.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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