Image by Billy Metcalf Photography licensed under Creative Commons.

In one particular case, it turns out that DC has more in common with Baton Rouge, Louisiana than you might think. DC is 35.6% white, which makes it more similar to Baton Rouge (at 36.4%) than San Francisco (at 41.2%). That's according to a new online tool that uses Census data to compare cities.

The Peer City Identification Tool, created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, uses data like that from the American Community Survey to examine, among other things, cities’ poverty rates, their percentage of people over the age of 16 who are currently working, and their number of rent-burdened households.

Image by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Aside from the similarity between DC and Baton Rouge, another interesting comparison came up when I looked at the percentage of workers employed in manufacturing. Only about 2.1% of workers in Alexandria work in manufacturing, which reflects a 63% drop between 1970 and 2015.

This matches a similar percentage decrease as Seattle, but Seattle boasts a 6.8% manufacturing force. While the Peer City Identification Tool doesn’t show why, I suspect that Seattle having the biggest chunk of the aerospace industry in the country is a contributing factor.

Image by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

To make its comparisons, the tool creates four categories— equity, resilience, outlook, and housing— and uses them to compare cities with one another. The creators settled on these categories after conducting over 200 interviews with city leaders across the country. Here’s a bit more detail about the categories:

  • Equity considers a city’s racial and socioeconomic composition
  • Resilience describes economic change and labor market conditions
  • Outlook explores signs of a city’s demographic and economic future
  • Housing measures housing affordability, tenure, and age of the housing stock

DC, Alexandria, and Baltimore are included in the tool’s dataset. What do you see that’s interesting about our region?

Joanne Tang is a Northern Virginia native and a graduate student in public administration and policy, focusing on resiliency and emergency response. She lives in Alexandria and enjoys learning about pretty much everything, including the history of pencils.