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BSU quality of life study offers good insights

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. And Allen County fares pretty well, much as it did when the Community Asset Inventory and Rankings first came out in 2012.

But the results also show the need for improvement in some of the seven categories that were graded from A-F. Since each county received grades on a curve (an equal number of A’s and F’s and an equal number of B’s and D’s with C’s being average), the results may be considered inflated by some.

But we agree with Ball State economics professor Michael Hicks, the director of CBER, that the index at least provides each county with a tool to consider how they’re doing in areas that business and households consider when thinking about relocation.

Hicks, a frequent source of business commentary for News-Sentinel.com, worked on the exhaustive study with Srikant Devaraj and David Terrell to grade all 92 Indiana counties on seven major factors — people, health, education, government impact and economy, arts, entertainment and recreation, changeable public amenities and static public amenities.

The data used to compile the rankings covered 40 to 60 variables, and Hicks told Inside INdiana Business that because the variables change slowly, the index will come out every five or six years rather than annually.

The study was published in May and released to the media last week.

“The factors that really matter in your county’s economy in the long run are very slow to change,” Hicks told INside Indiana Business. “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.”

Allen County received an A in arts, entertainment and recreation (same as 2012), a B in health (down from an A in 2012), a B- in people (down from B), B- in government impact and economy (up from C) and a C in education (same as 2012). We stayed at No. 3 on a 1-5 scale (1 being ideal) in changeable public amenities and ranked 3 in static public amenities, which do not change from year to year.

The rankings for Northeast Indiana overall were generally high for state public amenities and health, average for people, local amenities and arts, entertainment and recreation, and lower for education and government and economy.

“We find that counties with higher grades had population gains, higher per capita income, and higher GDP per capita,” according to the report. “Those counties receiving ‘D’ and ‘F’ experienced population decline and lower standard of living.”

“It’s like a report card,” Hicks told Fox59 in Indianapolis. “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 strengths and weaknesses lie.”

Fort Wayne community leaders should review the results and consider ways to improve what we’re doing. Obviously, some categories may include things we can’t control. But let’s at least look at the data and see what it means and whether there is a way to makes changes for the better.

Find the BSU survey at https://cair.cberdata.org/files/CAIR%20Report%202019.pdf

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