City Vitals – a city performance framework from CEO’s for Cities

City Vitals is a framework of city performance metrics produced by CEOs for Cities that benchmarks the 130 largest metro areas in the United States across six domains set out below:


Cities thrive as places where people can live, work, play, and connect. It is through these connections that regions prosper. Internal connections among residents and firms, and external connections with the global economy are essential for a city’s prosperity and vitality. There are numerous ways cities connect, from physical connections (roads, airports, railroad), to virtual connections, to interpersonal connections.

Key indicators: voter participation, community involvement, economic integration, transit use, walkability, foreign students, foreign travel and internet connectivity.


Innovation and generation of new ideas play an important role in regional economic growth and prosperity. Many factors, including but not limited to the aggregation of talent, clusters of innovative firms, key research institutions, and a business and social culture amenable to change and risk-taking, have been found to be correlated with a city/region’s potential for generating new ideas. Regional competitiveness is based on the fact that generating new ideas is not evenly distributed across space. CEO’s for Cities acknowledges that ideas cannot be measured directly, but the footprints they leave in the economic landscape can be traced.

Key indicators: number of patents, amount of venture capital, number of the self-employed and number of small businesses.


The indispensable asset in a knowledge economy is smart people. Cities are places where people build knowledge through education and experience. As Ed Glaeser notes in Triumph of the City, “all great cities have something in common… [they] attract smart people and help them to work collaboratively.” Cities attract smart people and create opportunities for them to develop and apply what they know. Talent reveals the underlying intellectual capital a region can draw on to build its economy and to weather the inevitable shocks of competition and change.

Key indicators: educational attainment, number of creative professionals, migration of well-educated young adults and number of foreign-born college graduates.


The unique characteristics of place may be the only truly defensible source of regional competitive advantage. While globalisation has allowed regions to connect more frequently and efficiently with faraway places, regions understand that it is important to be unique, distinctive, and authentic while maintaining a global presence. Regions that create their own distinctively authentic cities and identities create a sense of place and a brand that can transcend their own advocacy efforts. There are many dimensions to distinctiveness and each city has its own set of unique characteristics, so it may be difficult to compare adequately metropolitan areas and cities on distinctiveness.

Key indicators: weirdness index, culture, internet search variety and ethnic restaurants.


The success of a regional economy heavily depends on the vitality of its urban core or central city. Vibrant metropolitan areas have strong centres that are hubs of economic, social, cultural, and recreational activities. Strong cities attract talent, foster creativity and innovation, and appeal to business start-ups. Conversely, metropolitan areas with weak central cities have lower economic performance. An assessment of the vitality of the urban core is conducted by analysing a series of measurements illustrating the performance of the core.

Key indicators: income, college attainment, and poverty.


In order to measure metropolitan performance, CEO’s for Cities presents five measures that reflect the dimensions of success outlined in the City Vitals framework. The five performance measures included in Metropolitan Performance are population, per capita income, poverty rates, vehicle miles travelled, and greenhouse gas emissions.


City Vitals 3.0

The original City Vitals Report (2006)

Fisher L. & Cortright J., Want To Change Your City? Check Your City Vitals (Huffington Post, 18 Sep 2012)

Image: Lunch time in Bryant Park by Young Sok Yun is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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