• Mickey McGlasson

The 2020 Community Index has Arrived!

For those of you who have been living under rocks, stranded on deserted islands, partaking in a months-long technology cleanse, or (for whatever reasons) have managed to avoid hearing the news: Fourth Economy has updated its Community Index with new data for 2020! Cue the Trumpets.

By the way, yes, I know we’re still squarely in the year 2019 on the calendar, but much like the makers of cars, video games, and other highly anticipated products, we just couldn’t wait.

Okay, I’m being a little sarcastic, but we really are excited to share updated output from our Community Index model. And to that end, here are some quick notes on the whats, whys, and hows of the Fourth Economy Community Index.

Remind me: What the heck is this thing?

For the last several years, Fourth Economy has used indicator data to measure community vibrancy and economic success. Originally, we published lists of communities that we found to be performing particularly well. Over time, as we’ve learned more about how different indicators interact, the process has become more analytically complex. Last year, we published a tool to capture data in an app, which you can visit here.

But, like, what is it?

At the risk of obfuscation, let me start by answering the reverse: what is it… not?

High on the long list of “things the Community Index is not”, you will find the following:

  • A perfect model of economic success

  • Predictive of future events

  • A black box algorithm with such mathematically complex components that it can’t be understood by us meager humans

  • A replacement for the type of analytical work we do with clients

Still, for all the things that the Index is not, there are several reasons why we use the model and its framework as critical components in many of our projects. Simply put, the Community Index model allows us to think both quantitatively and comprehensively about key issues that guide our work, and to make robust comparisons across the country.

How have we changed the model this year?

We’ve updated the data, included several new data sources, and adjusted the scoring mechanism to better capture the actual distribution of results and measure change year-over-year. (Scores are now relayed on a scale of 0 to 10.) We have also included scores for smaller counties—i.e., below 20,000 in population.

What’s new on our app?

In addition to improvements in the interface, we’ve made more information available about the underlying model, including details on the specific indicators and the scores. We have also added a page with tabular data (labeled “Compare Scores”) that allows you to compare scores across different places. You can select your own counties or let the app select a random county. Going forward, we will continue to refine the app based on user input.

So check out the app, and let us know what you think!

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Phone: (412) 325-2457

Email: engage (at) fourtheconomy.com


Fourth Economy Consulting
1501 Preble Avenue
2nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15233