2023 Trends from NLC’s Center for Research and Data Analysis


  • Joshua Franzel, PhD
December 19, 2023 - (3 min read)

As the countdown to 2024 begins, it is important for local governments, of all sizes and geographies, to keep an eye on key trends impacting their communities. To help stay ahead of the curve, the NLC Center for Research and Data Analysis staff highlights a few key takeaways from recent research that will continue to inform and be of interest in the year ahead…

Municipal Finance

Against the backdrop of elevated but moderating inflation, cities can expect to see continued real growth in their tax revenues in the coming year, enabling the expanded funding of public services and infrastructure projects. At the same time, local governments are engaging in cautious budgeting headed into 2024, which may prove to be beneficial in the long run, as they have built up significant fiscal reserves and avoid excessive spending. Check out NLC’s recent report: City Fiscal Conditions 2023.

The State of the Cities

From lingering pandemic impacts to economic uncertainty to heightened service demands, the past few years have been challenging for cities. That said, local leaders are resilient, optimistic, and determined to rebuild their communities better than before, while continuing to work with their state and federal counterparts. Top priorities headed into 2024 include infrastructure improvements, budget management, public safety, local economic performance related to business and job creation, and mitigating housing insecurity. Learn more about the range of priorities local leaders are focused on in NLC’s recent report: State of the Cities 2023.

Rail Safety

Train derailments, collisions, and other types of accidents have an inordinate impact on cities of all types. Over the past decade, close to two-thirds of class 1 rail accidents occurred within city boundaries, with a small subset of cities being disproportionately affected.  NLC’s analysis of Federal Railroad Administration data sets explores this important, often overlooked issue.

American Rescue Plan Act, State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF)

As of mid-2023, large cities and consolidated city-counties have budgeted 88 percent and obligated 64 percent of SLFRF allocations. While a large share of these commitments is geared toward government operations, notable increases are occurring focused on housing projects. Check out our latest blog post analysis.

Federal Investment in Local Infrastructure

Cities, towns and villages continue to receive federal grants to rebuild and expand local infrastructure networks, via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As of the end of November, there were a total of 1,850 local awards across 1,296 unique municipal recipients, representing over $15.3 billion in funding. In the new year, continue to track these investments with NLC’s Rebuilding America dashboard.

The NLC Resource Library showcases the latest research and data analysis that cities, towns and villages need to support their communities.

The list above highlights just a few examples of NLC’s world class research and resources for local governments. Browse the Library for an array of publicly available content as well as research insights available exclusively to NLC member municipalities and their staff.

About the Author

Joshua Franzel, PhD

About the Author

Joshua Franzel, PhD is a Senior Executive and Director of Research & Data Analysis at National League of Cities.