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Measuring Street Cleanliness: A Comparison of New York City’s Scorecard and Results from a Citizen Survey


Gregg G. Van Ryzin is currently an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, City University of New York, and former director of the Baruch College Survey Research Unit. He will be joining the faculty of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University, in fall 2008. His research focuses on citizen satisfaction with public services, program evaluation, and performance measurement.

Stephen Immerwahr, formerly with the Baruch College Survey Research Unit, City University of New York, now works at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Stan Altman is a professor and former dean in the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, City University of New York. He directed the collaborative efforts that designed and implemented Project Scorecard in New York City from 1973 to 1974. He was also instrumental in initiating and planning the 2000 and 2001 Survey of Satisfaction with New York City Services.


Public administrators at the local level often rely on citizen surveys to measure the outcomes or accomplishments of their service delivery efforts. However, many remain skeptical about the value of survey-based measures of local government performance, in large part because of the low empirical correlation between objective and subjective performance measures reported in the literature. Using data from New York City’s street cleanliness scorecard, a well-established outcome measure, combined with responses from more than 4,000 respondents to a citizen survey, the authors find a clear and consistent correlation between the scorecard and citizen ratings of street cleanliness in their neighborhoods. Moreover, the street cleanliness scorecard is a much stronger predictor of citizen ratings than demographic factors, trust in government, or contextual effects. These results demonstrate that citizen judgments about government performance can correspond closely with more objectively measured outcomes—and that citizen surveys can provide valid and useful performance measures, at least for some local government services.