top of page



Benchmarking data for 17 large cities

We have always been fans of benchmark reports. They put performance measures into context, allowing cities, counties or states to see how they compare to their peers.

Benchmarking isn’t easy, of course. Since the details behind government statistics vary there’s always a risk of comparing the quality of an apple to that of a pear. Or even a watermelon. They also require a certain amount of courage as there’s always the possibility that the benchmarking city will find itself in an unflattering position.

That said, there’s a lot states and localities can learn from their neighbors. And there’s a big bonus for the peer entities. They get to take advantage of the results as well, without putting in the work.

With that in mind, we would like to bring San Francisco’s benchmarking report, which was released on Valentine’s Day, to the attention of its comparison cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle and Washington D.C. (Not all cities are compared on all issues.)

Some selected facts that San Francisco’s controller’s office presented on how it compares to the other cities:

  • San Francisco has the smallest percentage of residents who are under 18 – just 13 percent. Long Beach had the highest percentage under 18.

  • Miami had the highest percentage of residents over 65 and Minneapolis had the lowest percentage over 65.

  • San Francisco has the highest average income ($112,459) and (not surprisingly) the highest housing costs as a percent of income. Miami had the lowest average income and Denver had the lowest housing costs as a percent of income.

  • Seattle had the highest number of library visits per resident (8) with San Francisco coming in second. Denver had the highest percentage of its population registered as library card holders (74 percent) and Los Angeles had the lowest (31 percent)

  • D.C. had the highest percentage of the population over 25 to hold graduate degrees.

  • Chicago spent the most per resident on parks ($354 for operating costs); Miami spent the least ($31 in operating costs). San Francisco was fifth on the list. ($148)

  • D.C. had the highest number of street cleaning employees, (48 per 100,000 population); San Jose had the least (1 per 100,000).

  • Oakland had the highest number of violent crimes per 100,000 daytime population, while San Diego had the lowest.

  • Philadelphia had the highest police staffing per 100,000 daytime population while San Jose had the lowest. Philadelphia also had the highest jail population while Hennepin County, which handles jails for Minneapolis, had the lowest.

There’s lots more in the report and the city controller’s office will be releasing two more benchmark reports this week. The next will be on transportation and finance and the third about population health and the safety net.


bottom of page