Second Annual ‘U.S. Cities SDG Index’ Ranks American Cities Based on Sustainability Performance

  • Top 100 most populous U.S. cities evaluated using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) global framework
  • 62 of the 100 MSAs are less than half way towards achieving the SDGs
  • The best performing U.S. city is only 68% of the way towards fully achieving the SDGs
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro region (CA) occupies top-spot for second year
  • Report highlights widespread social and economic inequality in U.S. urban areas

BOSTON – Today, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 86th Annual Meeting, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released the 2nd Annual U.S. Cities Sustainable Development Goals Index. The report, titled “Leaving No U.S. City Behind,” shows that all U.S. cities, even those at the top of the Index, have far to go to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global framework promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability. The U.S. was among 193 countries that adopted the SDGs in 2015.

The U.S. Cities SDG Index ranks the 100 most populous city regions – or Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) – within the U.S., covering 66% of the domestic population. It is a composite index comprising 44 indicators and providing a comprehensive assessment of sustainable development challenges facing U.S. cities. It is intended as a technical resource as well as an advocacy tool to spur progress on sustainable development across the U.S.

“America faces many daunting problems, and this year’s U.S. Cities SDG Index uses measurements on 15 of the 17 global SDGs to shine a spotlight on many of the challenges that U.S. cities face, such as access to healthcare, obesity, income inequality and violent crime,” said SDSN Director Jeffrey Sachs. “Federal politics are typically paralyzed these days, in the grips of vested interests and lobbyists that block effective actions, yet real solutions and progress can still be won at the local and state level.”

In the 2018 Index, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro region occupies the top-spot for the second year in a row, with an overall index score of 68.57. This means that the San Jose MSA is 68.57% of the way toward fully achieving the SDGs, according to the measures used in this Index. To highlight examples of approaches working in lower-ranked cities, the report also profiles sustainability initiatives in Orlando, Los Angeles, and Baltimore.

The top ten MSAs in the 2018 U.S. Cities SDG Index are the following:

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  2. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  3. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
  4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  5. Madison, WI
  6. Manchester-Nashua, NH
  7. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
  8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  9. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
  10. Provo-Orem, UT

A series of maps in the report illustrate how different regions are performing on specific goals, such as poverty, health and well-being.  The 2018 Index also examines in more detail the social inequalities highlighted in the 2017 Index – e.g. higher incidences of child poverty in 99 of the 100 city regions, higher female poverty in every city region, and documented racial inequalities across cities – to better understand how social inequalities might be deepening deprivations.

Why U.S. Cities?

In the United States, the engagement of local government leaders is crucial for sustainable development, as 85% of the domestic population live in cities and surrounding metropolitan areas. These cities are centers of economic enterprise and innovation, with the ten largest metropolitan areas accounting for 34% of the country’s total GDP. But they are also responsible for much of the country’s waste and environmental destruction, including more than 80% of the country’s CO2 emissions. It is cities in the U.S. that will make or break sustainable development success for the country as a whole.

The Creation of the U.S. Cities SDG Index

The U.S. Cities SDG Index was inspired by The Global SDG Index, which SDSN co-produces annually to rank 157 countries on their SDG performance. In 2016, the Global Index ranked the U.S. 25th among all countries pursuing the SDGs. In 2017, the U.S. was 42nd as a result of the inclusion of additional indicators that assessed international spillover effects such as CO2 emissions and tax evasion. The creation of this U.S. Cities SDG Index, then, is intended to better understand America’s specific challenges and variations across the country.

About the Sustainable Development Solutions Network

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. SDSN aims to accelerate joint learning and promote integrated approaches that address the interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges confronting the world. SDSN works closely with United Nations agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society.

Author Contact Information:

Jessica Espey – jessica.espey@unsdsn.org

Laurie Manderino – laurie.manderino@unsdsn.org