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New ‘Free Cities Index’ Ranks America’s Best and Worst Pro-Growth Cities


By Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D., Pacific Research Institute

Texas, Colorado, North Carolina Cities Top Index; California Has 3 of 5 Worst Cities

Cities that promote pro-growth policies, encourage entrepreneurship, and efficiently provide core public services ranked at the top of a new “Free Cities Index” of the nation’s most 50 populous cities released today by the Free Cities Center at the nonpartisan, free-market think tank, the Pacific Research Institute.

Click here to read the full Free Cities Index rankings

Families desire cities that are affordable, foster economic opportunities, and offer residents a high quality of life. The Free Cities Index rankings show that the cities that are offering these attributes are growing in population,  By the same token, cities that levy less burdensome taxes, impose a less costly regulatory environment, and efficiently provide core public services are attracting employers, investment, jobs, and tax revenue.

The Free Cities Index rankings are predicated on a pro-growth policy criterion, judging the nation’s 50 most populous cities based on whether they levy less burdensome taxes on businesses and individuals, impose a less costly regulatory environment, and efficiently provide core public services.

Based on these factors, the following cities ranked as the top five and bottom five pro-growth cities:


The top ranked cities performed well across most of the policy criteria, indicating that it is not one policy area driving the rankings of the top performers.  No city was ranked toward the top of every category, showing that every city has room for improvement.

Comparing the rankings to the population growth trends of the largest 50 cities illustrates a clear pattern – the cities with growing populations tend to maintain pro-growth policy environments while the cities with declining populations maintain anti-growth policies.

The Free Cities Index rankings make clear – people, voting with their feet, are expressing their support for pro-growth policies by moving to those cities whose policies promote freedom.  These population trends provide important feedback for state and local policy leaders if they will listen.  Attracting families and entrepreneurs requires policy leaders to enact policies that will inspire people to live there and encourage job creators to invest there.

PRI’s Free Cities Center cultivates innovative ideas to improve urban life based around freedom and property rights – not government.  It regularly releases incisive reporting and analysis on crime, housing, education, homelessness, social mobility and other urban issues through commentaries, videos, and webinars.


Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D., is a Sr. Fellow in Business & Economics, Pacific Research Institute, as well as the Director of PRI’s Center for Medical Economics and Innovation.