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How to use the Community Index

We see the Fourth Economy Community Index as a starting point for communities, providing them with a baseline to help understand where they are doing well and see where there is room for improvement.

We envision you using the information:

  • When developing an RFP to create specific strategies to improve your community
  • To lead community discussions about areas of relative strength and weakness
  • To inform presentations to stakeholders about the state of your community
  • To compare your community to top ten communities of the same size

If you’d like to delve deeper, please contact Fourth Economy to see if we can help. Many of our most interesting projects stem from conversations with communities about where they are and where they want to be. We can start with an initial look into the details about your community and provide context around your rankings. Our specialty though, is in development of strategies to help communities achieve their goals. We’d love to talk to see if we can help. Get in touch.

About the Community Index

The Community Index began six years ago as an effort of our team to document what key indicators are measures of current and predictors of future vibrant communities. Each year we publish top 10 lists of counties, organized by population size. In 2018, we developed this tool to allow others to see how our Index model ranks counties across the country.

The Index model incorporates twenty different indicators in the areas of Investment, Talent, Sustainability, Place, and Diversity. While we know there is no single recipe for economic success, we also know that these five areas are critical ingredients in vibrant communities everywhere.

What do we mean by each of these?

  • Investment: active businesses, access to capital, and investment in physical infrastructure
  • Talent: a growing workforce with education and job skills, equipped to excel in high-wage opportunities
  • Sustainability: transportation, land use, and environmental conditions that promote healthier lifestyles and a healthier planet
  • Place: affordable housing and transportation options that provide access to recreational and cultural amenities
  • Diversity: personal and professional interaction across lines of race/ethnicity, age, and wealth

This year’s Community Index features data on 1,837 of the 3,007 counties in the United States, covering all counties with a population of 20,000 or more. In the model, indicators in these five areas are combined to produce an overall score. The overall scores range in value from 1 to 100. An overall score of 73, for instance, means that the county ranks higher than 73% of counties in the country. Comparisons to counties within the same state, region, and similar population size are included on the dashboard for benchmarking.