Data & Resources

State of the Cities

2020 report: Greater responsibilities, fewer resources

This State of the Cities research report is revisiting a project first conducted by the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) in 2005. Fifteen years later, this new report is designed to reflect the current fiscal conditions, costs, and service challenges of the 281 cities in Washington state and to communicate the links between the health of cities and the state’s economic health.

This report presents a comprehensive analysis of the conditions that impact our cities today, over the last four years, and what challenges cities are anticipating in the future.

142 of Washington’s 281 cities and towns (representing 68% of the statewide incorporated population) responded to a survey on major issues and challenges for cities. Survey data was supplemented with data from the U.S. Census, Washington State Auditor Financial Intelligence Tool, issue-specific city data reports, and other state agency program data for analysis.SOCCityscapeTrees

In addition, analysis was conducted to categorize cities by common characteristics (such as small rural, tourism, large central cities) into clusters to further analyze financial conditions and common concerns by types of cities.



Cities are vital to the state’s economic prosperity and serve as hubs for innovation. They are where businesses are located and where people live and gather. City services, from streets and infrastructure to public safety and parks, are essential to Washingtonians’ quality of life.

The findings and recommendations in this report are intended to continue the conversation about how the state can assist cities and ensure the long-term economic health of the state. Cities need state assistance with strategies to help with infrastructure funding, local revenue options, and the flexibility to adequately fund city services and spur economic development.

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