Develop Prosperity and Opportunity Indicators

Matt Koukolover 2 years ago

PLEASE NOTE: This project description has been revised/expanded since initial posting.

Project Title:

Develop Prosperity and Opportunity Indicators for Ramsey County: Indicators that show current level of prosperity and opportunity and change over time for local areas.

Project Description:

Assist Ramsey County in examining available data sources to create a number of measures or a set of indices that will help capture baseline data and be able to track changes over-time in economic prosperity and opportunity. The County’s focus is on growing prosperity and investing in areas of concentrated poverty, which are defined as census tracts that have over 20% of their residents living in poverty.  Having a tool that can show today’s conditions, growth and change over time, and where continue investment and/or effort need to be placed would be very useful for helping us advance our work.

There are a number of organizations including the Kirwan Institute that have done opportunity mapping down to the census tract level in a number of communities (see They have been able to show changes in housing, education, demographics, etc in a geospatial form that has helped local communities better understand changes happening within their communities.

Opportunity, as defined by much of the national research, is focused on access to education, housing, jobs (wages, employment, and availability), transportation and reduction in race-based disparities. Not surprisingly, organizations like the Kirwan Institute have found communities that lacked opportunity were often low income and communities of color. This pattern holds true across a number of cities and metro areas across the country.

Ramsey County would welcome a similar effort, but in order for it to really be useful it needs to be something that is not just a point in time report, but a tool that can track changes overtime. While the immediate impetus for this effort originates with Ramsey County leadership, the Met Council and other localities are also interested in these topics, and a tool that could look at neighborhood level indicators across a larger spatial extent, such as the entire Metro area would be welcome.

We ask you the Geo:Code 2 community, Will you take on the challenge of trying to create:

  1.  a set of measures that can effectively track prosperity and opportunity at the neighborhood  (census tract) level and be compared over time?

  2. a method for creating an intuitively understood composite of the indicators

  3. a tool for displaying the composite indicator, and

  4. a simple method for discovering the relative contribution of the individual indicators at any given location.


Ramsey County has been actively working toward creating greater prosperity for all. County leadership is quite aware that the Metro Area Region has grown more prosperous, yet many people and neighborhoods have not seen the benefits of this growth, and many of these less well-off areas are in Ramsey County. In addition, race-based disparities are quite pronounced in our region and Ramsey County is the most racial diverse county in the region. The compound effect of families lacking adequate access to education and other opportunities is detrimental to our region’s growth and vitality in the long term. As Senator Wellstone once said, “We all do better, when we all do better.”

A robust but easy to understand geospatial tool could help us to better communicate where we are today, where we are gaining ground, and where we need to focus in even more. To be effective, the tool would need to incorporate indicators at a localized level; otherwise, a masking effect of the larger analysis unit, such as the entire county, will confound local analysis. This geospatial analysis tool could help us with both internal and external communication that help align partners to really make a difference for our community.

In 2014 Ramsey County Board of Commissioners create a new goal, “Grow economic prosperity and address concentrated areas of poverty.” In 2014 the County initiated 12 internal action items to start this work. In 2015 the County Board create a new Vision, Mission, and Goals to help the organization focus towards its prosperity goal. In 2015 the County also reorganized from 26 separate departments to 4 Services Teams and a Countywide Strategy Team to better support alignment toward these new goals. This effort we are asking you to embark on could assist with the next step in our effort.  We welcome new thought, ideas and perspectives to help us create a better future for our residents.  

Ramsey County has submitted the following documents to provide more complete context regarding this project:

1. Ramsey County Community-wide Indicators, February 2016 presentation

2. Ramsey County Community-wide Indicators, December 2015 presentation

3. Ramsey County Future Shared Prosperity presentation

4.  List of Potential Indicators and Data Sources

Thank you for your consideration of this project.


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