From January to May, 2015 the Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence (CIDI) commissioned a Capstone team from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) to create a place-based index of socio-economic well-being in NYC communities. The use of an index, a composite measure with weighted domains and indicators, facilitates the synthesis of data from disparate disciplines in order to paint a more holistic picture of quality of life and track differences between and among populations over time. Well-being, by definition, is a subjective perception of one's quality of life. In a city such as New York, with its wealth of diversity and preferences, community well-being can be difficult to capture; nonetheless, certain indicators do indeed correlate with a community's state of well-being. This research attempts to integrate data on a range of indicators that approximate the well-being of New Yorkers within the City's neighborhoods.
The SIPA team conducted an extensive literature review on well-being indices, developed a sound methodology based on the evidence, collected data, and produced an index of neighborhood-level well-being for New York City. The indicators chosen, based on literature reviews of similar indices were grouped into six major domains: Education, Health & Well-Being, Housing, Economic Security & Mobility, Core Infrastructure & Services, and Personal & Community Safety. Datasets were gathered from variety of sources, e.g. the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the New York City Community Health Survey, and New York City agencies. Statistical techniques were employed to modify the spatial units used in the various datasets in order to reach the desired common geographic level: the Neighborhood Tabulation Area (NTA).
There were 14 NTAs with significantly higher well-being than the mean (more than 1.5 standard deviations above the mean) and 16 NTAs with significantly lower well-being (more than 1.5 standard deviation below the mean). The index incorporates data from various sources, with 45% of indicators coming from the American Community Survey, which averages data from the last five years; therefore the index approximates the well-being of New Yorkers between 2009 and 2013. The availability of more annual data would improve the specificity of the measurement and enable more precise conclusions with regard to changes over time.