The Vital Signs are outcome indicators that “take the pulse” of Baltimore neighborhoods to measure progress towards a shared vision for strong Baltimore neighborhoods, improved quality of life, and a thriving city over time. BNIA-JFI tracks these outcome indicators each year, and trains various groups and individuals on using these indicators to enhance their work toward long term change. Vital Signs offer Baltimore a common way of understanding how our neighborhoods and overall quality of life are changing over time.
An indicator is a measure or set of measures that helps to quantify, express, or “indicate” progress toward a goal or outcome. Indicators tell you something. Data are “information collected.” Indicators are generally made up of, or compare data items. They are usually expressed as rates or percents. Data are the counts; indicators tell you something about them. Indicators put data into context.
An outcome indicator is an indicator of the desired condition or result. Outcome indicators are used to understand the progress toward the overall outcome. These indicators are selected based on how well they meet two criteria – Usefulness to the Community and Data Quality.
Data for Vital Signs indicators come from many different groups both within and outside of Baltimore City including: government agencies, neighborhood groups, non-profit organizations, Federal resources such as the U.S. Census, and commercial sources. Because the data is obtained by BNIA-JFI, sources of data may change due to cancellation of data collection by data provider, change in how data is collected, cost of data, or availability of new data sources. As a result, sources for several indicators have changed since the initial publication of Vital Signs 1 in an attempt by BNIA-JFI to ensure the most accurate representation of changes available.
Vital Signs data are continously updated throughout the year and are improved upon. Due to a lag in time between when data is available, when it is analyzed, and when it is publically available, some data or indicators may be more recent or current than other indicators. To learn more about what data is currently available, please contact BNIA-JFI staff.
The data providers in the Alliance have developed data handling standards for quality control and documentation purposes. BNIA-JFI staff also check data items and are extremely careful to properly document any errors or additional considerations for each data item. Because much of the data is aggregated from address level-data, geocoding standards are also in place.
BNIA-JFI has gone to great lengths to maintain consistency in the sources and time series of the indicators and data collected; however over time some of the indicators tracked by BNIA-JFI have changed. These changes are the result of several reasons including: data no longer being collected or maintained by data providers; a change in the geographic level of the data being collected; cost of the data purchased by BNIA-JFI; or availability of new data sources.
The Vital Signs are available at two levels: Citywide and the Community Statistical Aresa (CSA).
BNIA-JFI uses the 55 Community Statistical Areas (CSAs) to present a wide range of data from multiple sources as well as providing data for Baltimore City in a consistent way over time. Clustering neighborhoods into CSAs was necessary since most of the 270+ neighborhoods in Baltimore City do not have boundaries that fall along census tracts. As the city changes, Baltimore residents may shift their neighborhood’s boundaries or even change its name. Neighborhood lines often do not fall along CSA boundaries but CSAs are a consistent representation of the conditions occurring within particular neighborhoods.
The CSAs were initially designed by the Baltimore Data Collaborative with the Baltimore City Department of Planning. Four guidelines were established for constructing the CSAs:
The best way to find data on your neighborhood is to use the Planning Department’s name for the area of the city you are researching. You can then view the data for the CSA in which that neighborhood is located. Sometimes a neighborhood will span more than one CSA. A CSA will usually include more than one neighborhood. When analyzing CSA data, consider whether or not it encompasses neighborhoods with very different demographics.
Yes, BNIA-JFI collaborates with many city and neighborhood organizations to perform numerous social and economic studies for the City of Baltimore. Examples of these analyses can be found in our Publications and Research section.
Because of its use of Geographic Information Systems, BNIA-JFI is also capable of producing specialized maps for available data that enables further analysis of data sets at a geographic level not available by simply looking at raw data. Examples of maps created by BNIA-JFI can be found in the Map Gallery. To find out more information on the availability of maps or to request a map of available data please Contact Us.
Most datasets available through Vital Signs are available for purchase through BNIA-JFI at additional geographic levels, such as Census Tract, zip code, or Neighborhood Statistical Area (NSA). Customized geographic analyses are also available. For more information on pricing, please contact Seema Iyer at (410) 837-5797.
BNIA-JFI uses a process known as georeferencing, or geocoding, through the ESRI product ArcGIS. Georeferencing is the process of taking address data and projecting those addresses into a virtual map. When addresses are georeferenced, they are assigned a location (latitude and longitude). Once a data set has been plotted, BNIA-JFI can then join the projected data to different geographic levels. Doing this allows analysis of totals and rates for indicators within the given geographic areas as well as the ability to visually represent the raw data set.
All georeferencing done by BNIA-JFI follows standards set by the Maryland State Geographic Information Committee. BNIA-JFI make every effort to ensure that all individual-record data are georeferenced in a manner that ensures an accurate geographic representation of that record. Depending on the source of data, BNIA-JFI either geocodes data based on addresses using ESRI street centerlines, projects data with XY coordinates, or matches records based on block and lot. For data files where address geocoding is neccessary, vigorous address cleaning is performed, to create a standardized street number/street direction/street name/street type entry.
Several of the data and indicators cannot be shown as individual points or by address. These items can only be displayed by a larger geographic area to avoid violation of confidentiality laws. BNIA-JFI is obligated by federal and state law to protect the identities of those being studied.
Rates reported as a function of population in Vital Signs use data available through the U.S. Census to normalize each year. Many indicators reported in Vital Signs come from 2000 Census data, 2010 Census data, and 2006-2010 American Community Survey data (5 year sub-city estimates) and are updated yearly at the City level through the American Community Survey (1 year City estimate) or other commercial sources, such as Claritas.
Displaying data on maps can be easier to understand, powerful, and more usable, than charts and tables. Users can actually see where concentrations of specific problems or successes are located relative to their own neighborhoods.
BNIA-JFI staff have expertise in creating a variety of maps, ranging from general reference maps, which may show the relative locations of streets, parks, schools, landmarks, and other community assets as well as maps that display statistical information – rates of crime or the racial makeup of neighborhoods.
Some map styles include:
Furthermore, using Geographic Information Systems, BNIA-JFI can perform various spatial analyses such as cluster analysis, nearest neighbor analysis, and spatial autocorrelation.
Please visit our Citations page for more information.
BNIA-JFI includes multiple partners, including data providers, community building groups, foundations, neighborhoods and many more. We seek to bring together the resources of strategic partners and place them in a neighborhood context. Several of these groups contribute their time and effort to develop the core functions of BNIA-JFI. BNIA-JFI benefits from a wide variety of stakeholders and partners. We encourage anyone interested in contacting us and discussing how we can partner together.
BNIA-JFI was a founding member of the Community Indicators Consortium, a growing network of communities, individuals, and international groups interested in furthering the field of developing community indicators systems for use in measure progress toward long term results for change. Currently there are over 400 member cities.
BNIA-JFI is also a member of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a network of over 33 cities that have statistical data systems coordinated by the Urban Institute. This Partnership is designed to share lessons learned, successes, and challenges among the partnership sites relative to data system development, reports, and use.
BNIA-JFI currently displays data strictly from within the boundaries of Baltimore City. However, BNIA-JFI has the capacity to collect, maintain, and analyze data and information for areas outside of Baltimore City. We have provided research services to areas outside of Baltimore City including the Baltimore metropolitan region, Annapolis, Frederick County, and more.