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Methodology: Massachusetts’ Best Communities 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

 

GoLocalWorcester's annual ranking of Massachusetts' Best Communities 2013 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 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.  GoLocal utilized the median housing prices provided by Trulia (February-May 2013), down payment percentage and mortgage rate based on 30 FRM from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, hazard insurance and private mortgage insurance rate data from The Warren Group. 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 the US Census) 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 2012 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 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. 

Research by Sean Quinn, Stefanie Hayes, E-Soo Kim, Ben McKay, Karen Mills, Michelle Johnson, and Kalena Crafton.

 

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