RI’s Best Communities 2012: How We Got the Rankings

Monday, June 25, 2012


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GoLocalProv's annual ranking of Best Communities 2012 relies on both deep and broad statistical analysis of publicly available data, using a proprietary formula that applies weighting to categories based on relevant importance to the overall picture of a community.

In evaluating the 39 cities and towns of Rhode Island, GoLocalProv looked at five broad categories: affordability, economic condition, education, safety, and arts and culture, which were further broken down into indicators of how well the cities and towns performed in each area.

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To evaluate the affordability of the city or town, GoLocalProv applied a relatively standard set of formulas, incorporating data on median housing price, tax rates, and median household income.  GoLocalProv used down payment percentage, mortgage rate, hazard insurance, and private mortgage insurance rate data from HousingWorks RI. Together, these data generated monthly mortgage payment amounts, monthly property tax payment amounts, typical monthly housing payment amounts, and household income required to afford a house. The actual affordability percentage is a ratio of median household income to household income required to afford a house.

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Economic Condition

To quantify a community's general economic condition, GoLocalProv used two metrics: median household income and the effective tax rate, as assessed by the State of Rhode Island Municipal Finance Department of Revenue.

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To rank performance on public education, GoLocalProv evaluated the most basic levels, using 4th, 8th and 11th grade reading and mathematics NECAP scores for the 2011 testing year. Like its Top High Schools ranking methodology, GoLocalProv looked at the percentage of students at Level 3 (Proficient) or Level 4 (Proficient with Distinction), which signifies students’ ability to meet or exceed grade-level expectations.

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GoLocalProv utilized the most recent FBI Crime in the United States tables for Rhode Island, which broke down crime into two main categories, violent crimes (murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault) and property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson). The total offenses in these two categories signifies crime incidence, and, to take population size into account, GoLocalProv compared the ratio of crime incidence to population numbers from the 2010 US Census.

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Arts and Culture

Under a broad arts and culture umbrella, GoLocalProv assessed five measures that combine to make communities rich and enjoyable places to enjoy life outside the home. For this measure, GoLocalProv utilized numbers of theaters, museums and historic properties, and libraries, for cultural life, using RI-based tourism and city resources as our sources. We assessed numbers of restaurants and bars, using a national database. We added in numbers of golf courses, obtained from state and municipal sources, for recreation and open space.

Weighting the formula

The data for each of these measures, once obtained, was standardized to per capita where appropriate, and then assessed against the cohort's mean. Finally, each category received a weighting in a formula to yield the final rankings. New for 2012: GoLocalProv increased the relative weighting of education, and created two separate weightings for arts & culture and restaurants & bars (in previous rankings, that category was a combined total of all arts, culture, recreation and nightlife data). 

Research by Scott O'Leary, Meia Geddes, Frankie Dobbs, Hannah Strom-Weber and Jake Costello.

For more Best Communities 2012 coverage, don't miss GoLocalTV, fresh every day at 4pm and on demand 24/7, here.


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