City of Dexter Ranks ‘High’ On County Prosperity Index

As far as the Washtenaw County Office of Community Development and Economic Development is concerned, Dexter’s a good place to be in general for those who want to lead a prosperous successful life.

There’s a lot more nuance to the county’s study than that, but right now folks can dig into some of the study findings, which are derived from the 2010 US Census in a web applet loadable from the county’s Opportunity Washtenaw website.

The overview of the study, created in collaboration with the Ohio-based Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity, shows Dexter in a favorable light, with it being one of the areas of the map overlaid in cool colors, indicating greater metrics indicating opportunity and prosperity. The data breaks down by racial demographics and various other metrics, which we will get in to during an interview with Teresa Gillotti, Communication and Policy Specialist for the Office of Community and Economic Development, later in the week.

The Opportunity Index features data in five categories. Each of these categories contains two to five data points, which together create a category score. Those category scores are then combined again to make an overall opportunity score for each census tract in the county. The 5 categories are: health, job access, economic vitality, education, and neighborhood safety and stability.

All categories are weighed the same to create a final index score. In practice, the county’s census tracts are broken into quintiles – and scored on overall opportunity from very high to very low. An example of the index is at right, with blue indicating very high opportunity and dark red indicating very low opportunity.

“The Housing Affordability and Equity Analysis was our starting point to use data to get a glimpse at some of the disparity within Washtenaw County,” said Brett Lenart, Interim Director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development. “This tool provides a more in-depth look at how we’re doing. It also features a change index, to allow for monitoring how areas are changing over time.”

Matt Martin, Senior Researcher from the Kirwan Institute introduced the tool during his presentation at the Washtenaw County Equity Summit on Monday, Nov. 9. Using the index data, he further defined the data by race, pointing out that more African American’s live in lower-opportunity areas of the county, than any other racial or ethnic group in the area.

Lenart said that this is one of the main reasons for creating the index and hosting the Equity Summit. “The disparity we see is around geography and race,” he said. “We hope that this data will inform policy and funding decisions, so that we can begin to improve racial and economic equity in our community.”

The index is available online, and trainings have been scheduled for those who would prefer to be guided through the wealth of data available, including the opportunity and change index, and a series of overlays that include life expectancy, race, age, and per capita income variation.

Trainings are free and open to the public, but space is limited. To reserve a seat, e-mail Teresa Gillotti at gillottitm@ewashtenaw.org and indicate which training you’d like to attend.

— Thurs. Nov. 19 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Learning Resource Center Computer Lab, 4135 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
— Thurs. Dec. 3 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Learning Resource Center Computer Lab, 4135 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
— Monday Dec. 7 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Whittaker Road Branch of the Ypsilanti Public Library, 5577 Whittaker Rd, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Data for the index was provided by numerous local and state partners including: Washtenaw County Public Health, Washtenaw County Intermediate School District, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office and Local Police Departments, Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office, State of Michigan Department of Public Health and Washtenaw County Equalization. The Kirwan Institute’s work on the index was supported by HUD as part of a technical assistance program available to HUD Sustainability Communities Grantees.

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