Indiana counties receive quality of life grades in new study: ‘It’s critical to have unbiased data’

MUNCIE, Ind. -- Counties in Indiana are making the grades based on their quality of life, and the results may catch you by surprise.

Researchers at Ball State University recently updated the Community Asset Inventory and Rankings (CAIR). This study distributes letter grades to all of Indiana’s 92 counties based on their quality of life and economic conditions. The study was last conducted in 2012 and the new results look at county conditions between 2012 and 2018.

Michael Hicks is the Director for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. His team created this report because he says it’s critical to have unbiased data.

“It’s like a report card,” said Hicks, “We want communities to understand that you’re not just an overall A or an overall F, that you could be very good in some areas and very bad in others. That will give you an idea where your strength and weaknesses lie.”

The CAIR consists of ranking each county in seven different categories: People, Health of Human Capital/Workforce, Education of Human Capital/Workforce, Government Impact and Economy, Arts/Entertainment/Recreation, Changeable Public Amenities, and Static Public Amenities.

Graded on a curve, each category receives an equal number of A, B, D, and F grades. Average performers receive C grades.

“Everyone lives in the place they want to live. So, our perceptions on where we live might not be what the other 326 million Americans think about us. This data gives us a good idea on what other people might look at when they look at our community,” said Hicks.

Multiple factors like population growth, graduation rates, the overall well-being of residents, and the likeliness of a business settling into a community go into the grading system.

Sherry Riggin is a Commissioner for Delaware County. She says the rankings aren’t much of a surprise. Delaware county received a D+ in the people category due to its poverty rate and unemployment.  The county also downgraded to a D in health.

“We know the D in our health because of our smoking,” said Riggin.

Glancing through the report grades vary. Counties like Boone, Hendricks, Bartholomew, and Hamilton rank high with A’s, where others like Marion, remain average.

“This data gives us a good idea on what other people might look at when they look at our community,” said Hicks, “No study is going to answer every question you have but this one outta make you think a lot more thoughtfully about what’s happening in your place.”

To view the complete list of county grades on quality of life, you can view the print report 2019 here.

Researchers also developed a housing barometer tool. It looks at county housing markets using home values and growth rates. Click here to visit the tool.

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