Again using the Block Groups as a proxy for a “Community,” the ACS data were chosen to gain an understanding of the “Household” economic condition within the communities.  These variables are predominantly measures by household instead of individual, with the exception being persons living between 100%–200% of Federal Poverty Level.
Through the research we found that many of these variables are calculated and combined in several other federal initiatives. The USDA Food Access program, for example, uses median income to determine “low-income neighborhoods,” and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development uses the ratio of poverty to income to classify household types.

The Wake County Economic Health Index is meant to compare the conditions within each community to better understand what type of financial constraints residents within that community may be facing. Two examples would be comparing median household income with the percentage of persons spending greater than 30% of income on rent (cost burden). Based on the median household income of Wake County (approx. $64,000) the percentage of persons determined to be between 100% and 200% (between $22,000 and $44,000, respectively) helps identify a “low to moderate” income population.
The Wake County Community Assessment for Economic Health contains the following socioeconomic and demographic variables:

  • Median Household Income: The median household income in the past 12 months

  • Food Stamps: Measured as a percentage of households in each block group

  • Rent as greater than 30% of Income: Gross rent as a percentage of household income

  • Home Mortgage as greater than 30% of Income: Mortgage status by owner cost as a percentage of household income

  • Persons living between 100%–200% of Federal Poverty Level: Ratio of income to poverty level for whom poverty status is determined between 100 and 200 percent.
Percentages were calculated for each factor by block group. The tabular information was then sorted from lowest to highest percentage and given a rank, with the exception of Median Household Income. Median Household Income was sorted highest to lowest, so that the higher median incomes were given a lower score.    
The scores and ranking are based on the total number of block groups in Wake County, 1–455. Once each factor was sorted and scored, the scores of each factor were added up to produce a total score. The total scores were then sorted and ranked, 1–455.
This methodology allows the user to gauge the economic impact of living in certain block groups throughout the county. The median household income in comparison to the ratio of poverty (200% and below are households earning less than $44,000 per year in Wake County) and the percent of households spending greater than 30% of family income (“cost burden” for mortgage or rent), can identify possible economic stress in those communities.