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On National Scale, What 'Tier' Does Atlanta Deserve?

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In a very roundabout way, we landed on a City-Data post from 2012 asking, simply: "What is the next great U.S. city?" The question seemed intriguing enough. But of course, in a world obsessed with arbitrary rankings (see above), a pissing contest broke out over which American cities belong in which "tier" and which don't. New York City obviously qualifies as a top-tier metropolis — and it's on another level by a sizable margin. On the site, commenters seemed to agree that Chicago and Los Angeles are bona fide second-tier cities. But then things get ? murky.

Is Atlanta a true third-tier American city? What differentiates it from Los Angeles so much, aside from population, that they can't occupy the same tier? If Atlanta's not second tier, which cities should be? Boston? San Francisco? Seattle? Houston? Washington D.C.? And who are the third-tier candidates? Memphis? Sacramento? Detroit? Des Moines?

Another question: If Atlanta's a true third-tier city, could it be the most populous city on that rung? What would that say, if so?

Interestingly, a similar discussion broke out on the Urban Planet blog in 2003. Back then, several people legitimately ranked Detroit in a tier above Atlanta. Granted, these commenters are hardly experts, but their perspective is kind of interesting. And all of this is a great reason to get our arbitrary rankings on.

· What is the next great US city? (skyline, state, better) [City-Data]
· New York Times: 'So What's The Matter With Atlanta?' [Curbed Atlanta]

[ABOVE: Image via Fine Art America]