The lighter side of real estate

This Is The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

We pitted Pennsylvania’s 10 biggest cities against each other in 14 categories, and only one came away the winner. See where yours ranked.

Randy Nelson

Content Manager

119 articles, 53 comments

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Sorry, Philadelphians. All the Tastykakes and Rita’s ice in the world wasn’t enough to help your city shed its underdog status and claim the crown of Greatest City In Pennsylvania.

That’s because after an exhaustive mathematical analysis of cold hard facts, the Movoto Real Estate Blog has concluded that Pittsburgh is actually your state’s numero uno when pitted against its nine other largest metros in terms of things to do, money to do them with, crime, smarts, and more. In fact, Philly didn’t even crack the top five.

We know this news may be hard to hear, but for Pittsburghers it sounds like winning. Steel City bested the rest by a pretty wide margin, creating a top 10 ranked like this:

1. City of Pittsburgh
2. City of Harrisburg
3. City of Lancaster
4. City of Bethlehem
5. City of Altoona
6. City of Erie
7. City of Reading
8. City of Philadelphia
9. City of Scranton
10. City of Allentown

Before you hit send on that nasty email, why not at least let us explain how this all came together?

Greatness Can Be Measured

How’d we do this? Simple: We took the 10 biggest cities in the state and compared them using 14 criteria that correlate with fun, quality of life, smarts, and happiness:

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Each city got a score of  1 to 10 (lower being better) in these categories, based on data from the U.S. Census, the FBI, Facebook, Twitter, and business listings. After these scores were averaged into one ultimate Big Deal Score, Pittsburgh came out on top.

Even though Pittsburgh ruled supreme, all of the places we ranked had certain things they were good at. Here’s a look at what those were; consider them your consolation prize.

1. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA

Source: Flickr user Matthew Paulson

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

As you can see, Steel City did best in one of our “smarts” criteria: the percent of residents who’ve graduated from college. It also placed in the top three for all the amenities & attractions categories, employment, and high school graduation rate. Rival  Philadelphia only ranked higher in one: walkability. Where Pittsburgh placed sixth there, Pilly was second.

2. Harrisburg

Harrisburg, PA

Source: Flickr user Don Shall

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Harrisburg actually had Pittsburgh beat when it came to all the amenities categories—in fact, it placed first across the board there. However, since we awarded the overall ranking based on an average of 14 scores, that wasn’t enough to catapult this city into first.

3. Lancaster

Harrisburg, PA

Source: Flickr user City of Lancaster Mayor’s Office of Special Events

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Lancaster came out on top in terms of employment, with its 6.3 percent unemployment rate being the best out of the 10 cities we pitted against one another. It also placed in the top three for all its amenities criteria and was the most walkable city we ranked (meaning its amenities are the most convenient to reach on foot).

4. Bethlehem

Bethlehem, PA

Source: Flickr user Marty Desilets

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Not just the safest place we looked at (with the lowest crimes per 100,000 in 2012), Bethlehem was also the most wealthy. When we adjusted its median household income of $44,310 for the cost of living index (95, where the national average is 100), it was actually like Bethlehem’s households brought home $46,642 a year—more than any of the nine other places.

5. Altoona

Altoona, PA

Source: Flickr user Joe Penniston

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Altoona may have placed near the bottom of the pack for college graduates (ninth, actually) but this place is producing high school graduates like nowhere else. Its 82 percent graduation rate was the best we found. The city also placed in the top three for adjusted income, crime, employment, and commute time.

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6. Erie

Erie, PA

Source: Flickr user uniquelycat (Cathy) Smith

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

You know what you won’t be spooked by in Erie? The commute time. At just 18 minutes on average, it gave this city a first-place rank for that criterion. Of course, you’ll have to factor in the driving time to somewhere more exciting at night, seeing as how it was almost last for nightlife and arts & entertainment.

7. Reading

Reading, PA

Source: Flickr user Jack

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Remember how we said we’d focus on what each city did best? Well, in this case, we really have to point out where Reading came in last: high school and college graduation. Get it, because the city’s called “Reading”? Ahem. Anyway, on the plus side, this city is very walkable, and has plenty of parks & active life options per capita.

8. Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA

Source: Flickr user jdigit3l

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Ah, there’s Philly! You knew this wasn’t going to be pretty based on the ranking up top, but that’s not to say the city doesn’t have lots going for it. Take for instance walkability, which, as we touched on earlier, is how convenient amenities are on foot. Your city placed second overall for that, and third for college grads as a percentage of population. Plus, it’s got more amenities per square mile than half the places we looked at.

9. Scranton

Scranton, PA

Source: Flickr user bclinesmith

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Scranton may not have placed first for anything, but a third-place finish for crime isn’t anything to feel bad about. Neither it another third-place rank for commute time (20 minutes). Sure, it’s not the most glamorous stat, but it’s still an important one.

10. Allentown

Allentown, PA

Source: Flickr user Paul Sableman

The Greatest City In Pennsylvania

Allentown may have ranked pretty poorly across the board for amenities per capita and square mile compared to the nine other places we ranked, but at least they’re fairly walkable. Okay, so that’s some faint praise, but we’re trying to be positive here.

None of these cities placed better than Pittsburgh, and that’s kind of the point. So congratulations, City of Champions—you’re the champion. Oh, and the next time the whole Philly / The ‘Burgh argument comes up (in 3… 2… 1) you now have this ranking to settle it once and for all. Oh, who are we kidding? We’ll see you in the comments.

Featured Image Source: Flickr user Brande Jackson

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posted on: May 8, 2014
21,132 views, 4 comments


  1. Gremling

    Is this a joke? Also, Harrisburg being # 2? Hahahahaha. Sorry, can’t stop laughing.

  2. Scott

    I love living in Altoona but how did it get a “2” for a college grad score if it was next to last in that category?

  3. MPLancaster

    Lancaster is behind Harrisburg? Did you actually go to these places?

  4. Caitlin

    Philly has so much more than walkability. Philly was voted the number one under rated city in America this year, and this article is a perfect example of how Philly is misunderstood. Philadelphia has the most history, the best nightlife, and the smartest school. This article is a joke. I live in Altoona and can say that it does not even belong on the list. I am surrounded by simple minded rednecks! I hate Pittsburgh, they have huge egos!


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