Guess the City

The Real Sister Cities of Dallas

Let us extend a fraternal arm to Chicago, Houston, and...Des Moines.

What does Dallas have in common with Taipei, Monterrey, or any of its other adopted sister cities? As far as I can tell, not that much, besides what the Dallas Fort Worth World Affairs Council calls a shared commitment to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time,” which is difficult to quantify and nearly impossible to present in the kinds of graphs and maps true city policy heads love.

A more accurate picture of Dallas’ sister cities could be drawn from a new mapping tool published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The Chicago Fed collected civic data from across the country and did more than 300 interviews with municipal leaders to create the Peer City Identification Tool. Its stated goal: finding cities that are “experiencing similar trends or challenges” for the edification of local shot-callers.

It identifies kindred American cities by four measures: equity (including poverty statistics and social issues), resilience (the economy and labor market conditions), outlook (demographic changes projected for the future), and housing — a breakdown of, for example, home affordability and the city’s homeownership rate.

So rather than, say, Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic and home of the fabled Brno dragon, a closer sister city to Dallas may be Des Moines, the largest city in Iowa and home of the butter cow. We share with Des Moines a similar unemployment rate and a comparatively active labor force, according to the tool.

In terms of equity and outlook, Dallas is on the same playing field as Chicago and Houston, while our housing peers can be found in Alexandria, Virginia and Columbus, Ohio. Not quite as glamorous as Valencia, Spain (a city we do owe for giving us Santiago Calatrava and those bridges), but maybe more instructive.

You can play around with the Peer City ID Tool here, and read more about its creation over at CityLab.