Is Pittsburgh Really Better Than Philly? (Spoiler Alert: No)

NerdWallet wants to start a fight. We'll give 'em a fight.

philly v. pittsburgh

So there’s this website, NerdWallet.com, that’s ostensibly a personal finance site but which often sends out press releases ranking cities compared to this or that criteria designed to make those cities feel smug and secure in themselves — or, you know, the opposite.

The latest ranking involves a straightforward comparison of Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia — and as you might guess, Pittsburgh comes out on top. Why? Well NerdWallet has a list of criteria. But really, it’s because NerdWallet says so. So we say NerdWallet is wrong — or, at least, not nearly as right as it presents itself:


Via: NerdWallet

Here’s the NerdWallet basis for comparing the two cities, and who wins according to the site’s estimation:

  • Education: Pittsburgh
  • Employment Opportunities: Pittsburgh
  • Sports Fandom: Philadelphia
  • Commuting: Pittsburgh
  • Nightlife: Tie

We’re willing to admit that education and employment are important, and that Philly can be challenged in both regards. But after that, the criteria are awfully arbitrary, don’t you think?

Take for example commuting. NerdWallet judges the category based, among other things, the price of gas and the number of garages per 1,000 residents. It completely ignores that there other ways of getting around both cities — and that Philly is better at just about every other way of doing transit. WalkScore.com ranks Philly as better — significantly better — than Pittsburgh on the walkability of our neighborhoods (i.e.: the ability to get somewhere by walking), as well as based on our transit system and relative bicycle friendliness. Philly is a city where many of us travel about under our own power, and the qualitative benefits of that aren’t measured in NerdWallet’s ranking.

We’re glad that NerdWallet ranks us higher than Pittsburgh in the “sports fandom,” but we think we also rank pretty well in “arts fandom” — with due respect to the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Museum, we’ve got the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes. The Philadelphia Orchestra is still, despite its bankruptcy, one of the best ensembles in the world. And Opera Philadelphia is undeniably cool, providing a once-a-year simulcast on the Independence Hall lawn that brings thousands of new and old fans out for a good time.

Finally, there’s proximity to everything else. The nearest big city to Pittsburgh is … Cleveland. Philly, meanwhile, resides just a short train ride away from New York and Washington D.C. We’re part of a broader urban ecosystem in a way Pittsburgh can’t match.

That’s not to say that Philadelphia is empirically better than Pittsburgh — although we like it here a lot — only that there are lots of different ways to judge how much you prefer a given city. We might’ve compared weather or proximity to the shore or something else entirely: Why you choose to live someplace is actually a fairly personal choice not easily quantified on Pro/Con lists. NerdWallet’s list isn’t all that thoughtful; it’s just a good bit of internet trolling posing as something slightly smarter than it actually is.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.