Index Creation

Youthful Cities has nearly ten years of experience working with data to rank cities both in Canada and globally. The 6 Urban Attributes โ€“ connectedness, openness, dynamism, playfulness, curiosity, and inventiveness โ€“ help us shape our indicators and give our work a unique perspective.

Ranking of cities for the Urban Work Index 2021.
Ranking of cities for the Urban Work Index 2021.

Why Create an Index?

Indexes help us to quantify and rank cities on topics that may be hard to measure otherwise. For example, what city is the most youthful? The best place to work? The most affordable? As these indexes get shared and picked up by the media, high-ranking cities get good publicity, and all cities get to see where they excel and where they need to improve. To get where we want to be, we have to know where weโ€™re at. Indexes bring attention to the big issues and help get youth engaged.

The data we collect for indexes falls under the category of โ€œsmall data.โ€ Small data is defined as follows:

โ€œSmall data connects people with timely, meaningful insights (derived from big data and/or โ€œlocalโ€ sources), organized and packaged โ€“ often visually โ€“ to be accessible, understandable, and actionable for everyday tasks.โ€ (Source)

This data has tremendous value and benefit. All the data we collect for our indexes is openly shared on our open data portal.

How Do We Create an Index?


What topics, indicators, and measurements do we want to explore? What are the goals of this index? Who do we want to generate a conversation or action with?

Build a great team

In addition to the core Youthful Cities team, local youth are hired to collect data that cannot be found in central databases.

Methodology and indicator creation

Ultimately, an index is a collection of indicators that evaluates communities for success. So for each index we must ask, what do we want to capture, and how can we measure it? What is already measured? Where is data available? Can we create new ways of collecting data?

Data Collection

Data collectors are trained to ensure data is as accurate and trustworthy as possible. Where there are barriers to data collection, we have to do consultation to understand and gauge cultural sensitivity and data collection practices within these spaces.

Data Validation

Data is looked at for outliers that can skew the results. Any value that seems off or unexpected gets rechecked.


Is the index topical or comprehensive? If it is the latter, weighting needs to be applied. The appropriate weighting is determined by surveying the target group. (I.e., how important is x to you?)

Score the data

Through max-min normalization, where the top city in each indicator gets 100 points and the bottom city gets 0, the data is scaled. All other cities are given points based on how close they are to the top city. This scaling makes it easier to compare data and ensures that each indicator is of equal weight to another. Cities are given a score based on an average of their scores across a set of indicators for each topic.

What comes next?

Index creation is just the beginning. Once the dataset is cleaned, it gets uploaded to our open data portal, THE GRID. The data is used to generate a report with the results. We activate the data through exciting web-based data products.

What Are We Working On?

Urban Work Index

Coming Spring 2023. This year, the Youthful Cities is inviting small and medium municipalities to join in. Learn more here.

Youthful Cities Decade

A pivotal index to mark 10 years of Youthful Cities. This project will rank 100 cities across the world. This project is currently seeking sponsorship.

Case Study

The Real Affordability Index

On average young people are losing $750 per month by living in cities across the country. To break even young people would need to isolate themselves- no entertainment, no transportation, and no dining out. With 27 cities, 54 measures, and 2414 data points examined in the Real Affordability Index, we can conclude that this generation is currently still working to afford the toast, let alone the avocado.

Affordability for young people should take into account more than the bare minimum necessary to survive but what it would take to thrive. Thatโ€™s why we made the Real Affordability Index, to be able to really look at what it costs to live, work, and play in Canadian cities.

Data for the index was collected and examined through measures to represent the diversity of young people living in our cities. Lenses that the data is examined include gender, career, full-time work/part-time work, age cohort, and variations in wage. In partnership with RBC Future Launch, the Real Affordability Index shows that the lack of affordability in Canadian Cities for young people will have ripple effects across the country.

Want to be a part of the next Youthful Cities index? Let’s talk.