Vibrancy Indicators

Communities are always changing.  ArtPlace America is attempting to influence the course of change in a positive way through creative placemaking.

Arts-related activity plays a key role in contributing to the kind of quality of place that attracts and retains talented people and enables people to put all of their talent to work.  These kinds of flourishing places generate additional innovation and economic activity, which broadly benefits the entire community.  ArtPlace is investing nationally in a range of arts projects that explore different ways to promote creative placemaking. And ArtPlace America has developed the Vibrancy Indicators to measure change in the places it invests and to provide a vehicle for others interested in creative placemaking to explore their impact.

The Vibrancy Indicators were selected to provide a nationally available and consistent set of measures, available at the neighborhood level.  The Vibrancy Indicators will be used to measure changes in the communities in which ArtPlace America invests and will made publicly available for use by others interested in measuring community vibrancy.  The indicators were developed in consultation with a panel of national experts on placemaking and community development.

We expect to use the Vibrancy Indicators for two different purposes.  First, we’ll use the Vibrancy Indicators to measure the change in people, activity and value in the communities in which ArtPlace America invests and assess the overall impact of the ArtPlace America portfolio on these neighborhoods.  We aim to develop a better understanding of the kinds of projects and contextual factors which seem to affect creative placemaking.  Second, we will make the Vibrancy Indicators widely available to others as a way of stimulating further discussion and exploration of this topic.

The Indicators
The indicators are divided into three broad areas:  People, Activity and Value.  For the initial version of the Indicators, we have developed both the people and activity indicators.  We are still gathering data on appropriate value indicators, which will be added later. The following table summarizes the ten indicators, their data sources, and their underlying geographic detail.

People Indicators

1. Population Density
Population measures the number of persons living in a neighborhood.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods contain a density of local population. Increasing population is an indicator of increasing vibrancy.

Source:  Census 2010
Geographic Detail:  Census Block/block

2. Employment Rate
The employment-population ratio measures the economic well-being and engagement of the local population.  It is constructed by counting the number of employed residents living in a particular geography (Census Block) and dividing that number by the working age persons living on that same block. The employment population ratio is computed as the number of employed local residents divided by 2010 working age population (18 to 64).

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods have a high fraction of their residents of working age who are employed.  Increases in vibrancy are evidenced by increases in the fraction of the working age population who are employed.

Source:  LEHD (employed persons, residence basis), Census (population)
Geographic Detail:  Census Block

3. Percentage of Workers in Creative Occupations
This measure counts the fraction of working neighborhood residents who report that their occupation is either in the category “artists, writers, entertainers” or the category “architects, engineers and designers.”  These data are collected by place of residence, not place of work, and include self-employed persons.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods have higher than average concentrations of residents who are employed in the arts, writing, performing and other similar occupations.

Source:  American Community Survey
Geographic Detail:  Census Tract

Activity Indicators

4. Number of Indicator Businesses
Indicator businesses are those businesses most associated with vibrancy.  They are businesses that represent destinations of choice for cultural, recreational, consumption or social activity.   Indicator business density is a count of the number of indicator businesses in each cell.

Rationale:  Vibrant areas have high concentrations of indicator businesses.
Indicator businesses include firms in 45 selected industry codes including eating and drinking places, shops, personal service establishments and other businesses that cater to consumers.

Definition:  Number of indicator businesses.
Source:  Business Database, Selected SIC codes
Geographic Detail:  Street Address

5. Number of Jobs in the Community
Our employment measure counts the number of jobs at businesses in a neighborhood.  Jobs are measured by place of employment, not by place of residence, and job holders may or may not be neighborhood residents.

Rationale: Vibrant neighborhoods have abundant local job opportunities.  Increases in employment are an indicator of improving vibrancy.

Definition:  Number of jobs in each cell, by place of work
Source:  LEHD
Geographic Detail:  Census Bock

6. Walkability (Walk Score)
Walk Score measures the walkability of a neighborhood, based on the presence and proximity of walkable destinations.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods have many destinations within walking distance.

Our measure looks at the pervasiveness and distribution of walkability throughout an area by computing the Walk Score for a number of points in the neighborhood.

Source:  FrontSeat
Geographic Detail:  Points (Street addresses).

7. Number of Mixed Use Blocks
The Mixed Use Indicator measures the extent to which a particular area is dominated by residential activity or employment activity or whether it is a balance of the two.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods contain a mix of jobs and residences.

The mixed use measure is computed as the fraction of Census blocks with non-zero levels of reported employment and resident population.

Source:  Computed from LEHD (jobs), Census 2010 (population)
Geographic Detail:  Census Block

8. Cell Phone Activity
This measure captures the relative level of cell phone activity in an area on nights and weekends.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods have relatively high levels of activity on nights and weekends and are places people congregate away from home and outside of regular 9 to 5 business hours.

Our underlying data scores each 100-meter square cell in every metropolitan area on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the level of cell phone activity for each of 168 hours in a given week.  Our indicator will be the average score for hours after 5pm on Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday.  This will indicate the amount of activity occurring outside regular workday hours hours.

Source:   SpotRank
Geographic Detail:  100-meter cells

9. Percentage of Independent Businesses
The independent business measure computes the number and share of local businesses that are not part of national chains.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods have more locally owned independent businesses.

This measure is calculated by examining the ownership of eating places.  Eating places (restaurants, fast food establishments and similar businesses) are the most numerous and widespread indicator businesses.  We identified the 200 largest national eating place chains and treated all other businesses as locally owned.

Source:  Business Database, Selected SIC codes
Geographic Detail:  Street Address

10. Number of Creative Industry Jobs
This measure estimates the number of persons employed at businesses in arts, entertainment, media, and related industries.  These data are computed by place of work, not by place of residence, and include wage and salary workers for firms with a payroll, but not self-employed persons and businesses with no taxable payroll.

Rationale:  Vibrant neighborhoods have higher than average concentrations of workers employed in businesses that  involve information, media, arts and creative endeavors.

Source:  Zip Business Patterns
Geographic Detail:  Zip Code

Data Aggregation
Data for the vibrancy indicators are available in a variety of different geographies.  Some data are points (business addresses); others are grouped by a standardized area, such as Census Tract or Zip Code area.  For some purposes, we will report data in their native geography, but for other purposes—to make consistent evaluations across space—we’ll use GIS tools to aggregate these data into other units.  For example, for ArtPlace projects, we’ll prepare standardized data reports analyzing data for a selected one-half mile (800 meter radius).  To make comparisons across metropolitan areas, we’ll aggregate data into half-mile square cells.

Other Indicators
We will extend and complement these Vibrancy Indicators in two ways.  First, we will develop measures of value, which capture changes in rental and ownership values related to neighborhood change.  We expect that over time, the market will capitalize improved livability into observable value.

Also, to measure the extent and nature of demographic change within neighborhoods, ArtPlace has also developed two measures of the economic and racial diversity of the nation’s neighborhoods.  These measures are the racial and ethnic diversity index and the mixed-income, middle income index.  A recurring issue in creative placemaking is whether the process of neighborhood change leads to places becoming less economically and racially diverse.  ArtPlace will use these two measures to track diversity over time.  There is strong evidence that social and economic outcomes for disadvantaged populations are better in more economically integrated communities.

Finally, we want to explore the relationship between vibrancy and the arts in more detail.  So in addition to the Vibrancy Indicators, we have developed other specific measures of the level of arts-related businesses and non-profit arts activity at the neighborhood level.  Here we measure the number of business establishments in specific arts-related categories and the number of registered non-profit organizations primarily engaged in arts related activities, taken from data compiled by the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

The Vibrancy Indicators were developed by Impresa’s Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi in collaboration with the ArtPlace team. In developing the indicators, we benefited from the advice and counsel of a diverse team of national experts that shared their insights about creative placemaking.

For answers to frequently asked questions about the Vibrancy Indicators and how they will be used, read our FAQ page.

Participating Foundations

Barr Foundation
Bloomberg Philanthropies
Ford Foundation
The James Irvine Foundation
Knight Foundation
The Kresge Foundation
The McKnight Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
William Penn Foundation
Rasmuson Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation
The Surdna Foundation