BSU Index Updates County Quality of Life Rankings

A new report from the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University updates the quality of life rankings for every Indiana county. The Community Asset Inventory and Rankings, originally created in 2012, gives a letter grade for each county in seven major categories. Ball State economics professor Michael Hicks says the index gives counties a tool to let them know how they’re doing in areas that business and households consider when thinking about relocation.

Hicks, who also serves as director of the CBER, tells Inside INdiana Business there was more variability over time than he originally anticipated.

“Most every county went up or down a ranking and some counties went up more than two grades and so that’s kind of interesting. I didn’t expect that level of variation,” said Hicks. “The factors that really matter in your county’s economy in the long run are very slow to change. The things that we may look at from week to week or month to month like the unemployment rate or tax rates, they can change pretty easily but the real big factors that drive population and business growth are very slow so I was surprised and happy to see very significant changes in a number of places.”

The categories that counties are ranked on include:

  • People (Demographic & Population)
  • Health of Human Capital/Workforce
  • Education of Human Capital/ Workforce
  • Government Impact and Economy
  • Arts/Entertainment/Recreation
  • Changeable Public Amenities
  • Static Public Amenities

The rankings are determined based on data covering 40-60 variables, all of which are available to the public. Hicks said because the variables change slowly, researchers decided to do the index every five or six years, instead of annually.

Researchers also developed a “housing barometer” tool for each county, which evaluates the housing markets in the counties using county-wide home values and the relative growth rate over eight years.

“The reason for this is that home values really capture everything that’s good or bad in the neighborhood that you live and if you add them up in a county, that gives you a good sense, county overall, how you’re doing. This is really an independent measure of things like school quality, educational attainment, quality of transportation, and amenities. If you look at that barometer, there’s very few surprises there.”

You can connect to the full Community Asset Inventory and Rankings index, as well as the housing barometer, by clicking here.