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Central MA Best Communities 2012: How We Got the Numbers

Thursday, June 28, 2012

 

GoLocalWorcester's annual ranking of Best Communities relies on both deep and broad statistical analysis of publicly available data.

In evaluating the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts, GoLocalWorcester 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.

Affordability

To evaluate the affordability of the city or town, GoLocalWorcester applied a relatively standard set of formulas, incorporating data on median housing price, tax rates, and median household income. GoLocalWorcester used housing data from The Warren Group; down payment percentage, mortgage rate, and private mortgage insurance rate data from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA); and hazard insurance from a national average. 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.

Economic Condition

To quantify a community's general economic condition, GoLocalWorcester used two metrics: median household income from 2010 census data and the effective tax rate from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

Education

To rank performance on public education, GoLocalWorcester evaluated the most basic levels, using 4th, 8th and 10th grade reading and mathematics MCAS scores for the 2011 testing year from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Like in its Top High Schools ranking methodology, GoLocalWorcester looked at the percentage of students at Proficient and Advanced levels, which signifies students’ ability to meet or exceed grade-level expectations.

Safety

GoLocalWorcester utilized the most recent FBI Crime in the United States tables for Massachusetts, 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, GoLocalWorcester compared the ratio of crime incidence to population numbers from the 2010 US Census.

Arts and Culture

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

 

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