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Ranally city rating system

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Ranally city rating system

The Ranally city rating system is a tool developed by Rand McNally & Co. to classify U.S. cities based on their economic function. The system is designed to reflect an underlying hierarchy whereby consumers and businesses go to a city of a certain size for a certain function; some functions are widely available and others are only available in the largest cities.

The system was developed for Rand McNally by geographer Richard L. Forstall and released in 1964. The city rankings are updated periodically in the Rand McNally Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide, an annual two-volume set, which is available in many libraries. Among the criteria for categorization are retail sales, newspaper circulation, and the presence of universities and hospitals and corporate headquarters. The size of the city's tributary area is critical to determining whether it will be rated a 2, 3, or 4. As of 2006, there are 1492 cities rated.

The system consists of a number and a letter. The number reflects a city's importance in the national hierarchy. Nationally important business centers are ranked 1. Regional business centers are ranked 2. Significant local business centers are ranked 3 and business centers whose importance is purely local are ranked 4. the letter reflects its importance in its own area. Doubled letters serve to distinguish centers within a class. The most important center in a market (trading area) is given some kind of A. Other business centers in the same market area will be given B or C depending on their importance. For example, Dallas is rated 1-AA (a nationally important business center) and Fort Worth is rated 2-BB. B cities constitute basic trading centers, while C cities do not.

Rand McNally divides the country into basic trading areas (487 as of 2008), each of which has exactly one A-rated city. The basic trading areas are aggregated into major trading areas, of which there are 51. The Federal Communications Commission uses these areas for determining wireless territory boundaries.[1]

New York has always been given the unique rating 1-AAAA due to its preeminent status in the national hierarchy. Chicago was originally the only other city rated 1-AAA as having influence over a large area of the country. In 1988, Los Angeles was similarly given a 1-AAA rating. Thirteen cities are given the rating 1-AA as major national business centers: Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C..

Ranally city rating Description Examples (* indicates a complete listing)
1-AAAA Unique rating for New York New York City*
1-AAA Unique rating for Chicago and Los Angeles Chicago, Los Angeles*
1-AA Major national business centers Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (13 cities)*
1-A Other national business centers Baltimore, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, and Seattle (14 cities)*
2-AA Major regional business centers Albany, Albuquerque, Allentown, Austin, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Buffalo, Charlotte, Columbia, Dayton, Des Moines, El Paso, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford, Honolulu, Jackson, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Lexington, Little Rock, Louisville, Madison, Memphis, Nashville, New Haven, Norfolk, Omaha, Orlando, Peoria, Providence, Raleigh, Richmond, Rochester, NY, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Shreveport, Spokane, Springfield, MA, Syracuse, Tampa, Toledo, Tucson, Tulsa, West Palm Beach, Wichita, and Youngstown (48 cities)*
2-BB Secondary major regional business centers Akron, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Worth, Oakland, St. Paul, St. Petersburg, San Jose, Wilmington, DE (8 cities)*
2-CC Same as 2-BB, but not constituting a basic trading center Newark*
2-A Other regional business centers Savannah, Scranton, South Bend, Springfield, IL, Springfield, MO, Stockton, Worcester (51 cities)*
2-B Secondary regional business centers Clearwater, Newport News, Tacoma, Trenton, and Virginia Beach (5 cities)*
2-C Same as 2-B, but not constituting a basic trading center Ann Arbor, Bridgeport, Riverside, and San Bernardino (4 cities)*
2-S Suburbs analogous to 2-C cities Anaheim, Arlington, Costa Mesa, Dearborn, Hialeah, Hollywood, FL, Long Beach (the largest city classified by Rand McNally as a suburb), Mesa, Paramus, Pasadena, Santa Ana, Southfield, MI, Stamford, Torrance, Troy, MI, White Plains (16 suburbs)*
3-AA Major significant local business centers Macon, GA, Manchester, NH, Mansfield, OH, Medford, OR, Midland, TX, Monroe, LA, Muncie, IN, Muskegon, MI, New London, CT, Ocala, FL, Odessa, TX, Parkersburg, WV, Poughkeepsie, NY, Provo, UT, Pueblo, CO, Rochester, MN, St. Joseph, MO, Salinas, CA, San Angelo, TX, Santa Barbara, CA, Sioux City, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, Tallahassee, FL, Terre Haute, IN, Texarkana, TX, Topeka, KS, Tuscaloosa, AL, Tyler, TX, Utica, NY, Visalia, CA, Waco, TX, Waterloo, IA, Wheeling, WV, Wichita Falls, TX, Wilmington, NC, Yakima, WA, and York, PA (77 cities)*
3-BB Secondary major significant local business centers Durham, NC, Fall River, MA, Gastonia, NC, Hampton, VA, New Bedford, MA, Niagara Falls, NY, Monterey, CA, Ogden, UT, Pawtucket, RI, Schenectady, NY, Spartanburg, SC, Springfield, OH, Waterbury, CT, and Wilkes-Barre, PA (14 cities)*
3-CC Same as 3-BB, but not constituting a basic trading center Boulder, CO, Everett, WA, Oxnard, CA, Racine, WI, Santa Rosa, CA, Ventura, CA, and Warwick, RI (7 cities)*
3-SS Suburbs analogous to 3-CC cities Alexandria, VA, Arlington, VA, Aurora, CO, Aurora, IL, Bellevue, WA, Beverly Hills, CA, Bloomington, MN, Brockton, MA, Burlington, MA, Cambridge, MA, Cherry Hill, NJ, Concord, CA, Danbury, CT, Edina, MN, El Cajon, CA, Fairfax, VA, Framingham, MA, Fremont, CA, Fullerton, CA, Glendale, CA, Greensburg, PA, Hackensack, NJ, Hayward, CA, Huntington Beach, CA, Jersey City, NJ, Joliet, IL, Kansas City, KS, Lakewood, CO, Lawrence, MA, Livonia, MI, Lowell, MA, Mountain View, CA, Newport Beach, CA, Newton, MA, Norwalk, CT, Orange, CA, Overland Park, KS, Palo Alto, CA, Pomona, CA, Pontiac, MI, Rockville, MD, San Leandro, CA, San Mateo, CA, Schaumburg, IL, Scottsdale, AZ, Santa Monica, CA, Skokie, IL, Sterling Heights, MI, Vancouver, WA, Walnut Creek, CA, Warren, MI, Waukegan, IL, Wayne, NJ, Woodbridge, NJ, and Yonkers, NY (55 suburbs)*
3-A Other significant local business centers Athens, GA, Anderson, IN, Cheyenne, WY, Fond du Lac, WI, Fort Pierce, FL, Grand Forks, ND, Hagerstown, MD, Redding, CA (200 cities)
3-B Secondary significant local business centers Meriden, CT, Fitchburg, MA, Johnson City, TN, Port Arthur, TX (58 cities)
3-C Same as 3-B, but not constituting a basic trading center Ames, IA, Rock Hill, SC, Troy, NY (51 cities)
3-S Suburbs analogous to 3-C cities Arlington Heights, IL, Chula Vista, CA, Edison, NJ, Midwest City, OK, New Rochelle, NY, North Charleston, SC, Somerville, MA, Wyoming, MI (180 suburbs)
4-A Other local business centers Sierra Vista, AZ, Bemidji, MN, Kalispell, MT, Rolla, MO (79 cities)
4-B Secondary local business centers Cedar Falls, IA, Kearney, NE, Springdale, AR, Urbana, IL (90 cities)
4-C Same as 4-B, but not constituting a basic trading center Carson City, NV, Conway, AR, DeKalb, IL, Dover, NH, Lodi, CA (155 cities)
4-S Suburbs analogous to 4-C cities Carrollton, TX, Compton, CA, Hillsboro, OR, Kirkland, WA, Mount Vernon, NY, West Haven, CT (361 suburbs)

Notes: The B and C cities are secondary because they are in the same market area as a city rated A.

While those are only abstract examples of the ratings, consider how the system works in practice with the example of Ohio. Rand McNally conceives of Ohio as consisting of nineteen markets (trading areas) with some peripheral counties being contained in trading areas of other states. The table below shows the nineteen trading areas in order of hierarchy. Each has an A-rated city. Some also have other rated cities and suburbs.

Example: Ohio
Trading area A-rated city Other cities Suburbs
Cleveland-Akron Cleveland (1-AA) Akron (2-BB), Wooster (3-C) Elyria, Euclid, Lorain, Mentor, Middleburg Heights, Parma (all 3-S), Barberton, Beachwood, Bedford, Brooklyn, Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Kent, Lakewood, Mayfield Heights, Medina, North Olmsted, Painesville, Ravenna, Richmond Heights, Willoughby (all 4-S)
Cincinnati Cincinnati (1-A) Hamilton (3-C), Middletown (3-C), Maysville, KY (4-C) Florence, KY, Springdale,(both 3-S), Covington, KY, Fairfield, Newport, KY (all 4-S)
Columbus Columbus (1-A) Delaware, Lancaster, Newark (all 3-C), Mount Vernon (4-C) Upper Arlington, Whitehall (both 4-S)
Dayton-Springfield Dayton (2-AA) Springfield (3-BB), Bellefontaine, Celina, Greenville, Piqua, Troy (all 4-C), Trotwood, Xenia (both 4-S)
Toledo Toledo (2-AA) Bowling Green, Fremont (both 4-C) Maumee (4-S)
Youngstown-Warren Youngstown (2-AA) Warren (3-B) Niles (3-S)
Canton-New Philadelphia Canton (2-A) New Philadelphia (3-B), Dover (3-C), Alliance (4-C), Coshocton (4-C), Massillon (4-C)
Lima Lima (3-AA)
Mansfield Mansfield (3-AA) Ashland (4-C) Ontario (4-S)
Ashtabula Ashtabula (3-A)
Chillicothe Chillicothe (3-A)
Findlay-Tiffin Findlay (3-A) Tiffin (4-B)
Marion Marion (3-A)
Portsmouth Portsmouth (3-A)
Sandusky Sandusky (3-A)
Steubenville-Weirton Steubenville (3-A) Weirton, WV (4-B)
Zanesville-Cambridge Zanesville (3-A) Cambridge (4-B)
Athens Athens (4-A)
East Liverpool-Salem East Liverpool (4-A) Salem (4-B)

The system is applied by businesses seeking to serve a network of customers with the greatest efficiency. For example, a company that services elevators or a wholesaler of paper bags would want to locate its field representatives primarily in A rated cities. The Rural Health Research Center at the University of Minnesota has recently published a report on access to physicians in rural areas which uses the system to evaluate access to physicians in rural areas.[2]

See also


  • Rand McNally Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide, 136th edition, 2005, Skokie, Ill.: Rand McNally. A complete description of the system is found at Volume 1, pp. 7–8, and rosters of the ratings appear on pp. 74–87 and 129-131.
  • Richard L. Forstall, ed. Rand McNally city rating guide: a completely new concept in analyzing markets and planning sales and advertising programs in the 1090 principal business centers of the United States. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964.
  1. ^
  2. ^ Ira Moscovice, et al., "Options for Increasing the Supply of Primary Care Physicians in Rural Minnesota," Rural Health Research Center, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, January 2008,
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