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IP3 at Your Service: Constructing Custom Data Measures

IP3 helps organizations and communities use data to power change-making work—to assess community conditions, monitor trends, prioritize areas for investment, and more. Through our data consultation services, we help clients identify the right indicators to meet their goals. Sometimes, this requires us to create new, custom measures. 

We create custom measures when the available indicators fail to adequately measure a concept, or when we want to examine a concept from a new or unique perspective. In the first example below, inadequate data on police violence prompted a client to work with us to construct a new measure for communities in their network to use in their power-building work. In the second example, a desire to examine housing equity and wealth-building with a fresh approach led clients to work with us to construct a new measure to complement established indicators of housing affordability, stability, and quality.

IP3 begins data consultation projects by digging in with clients to understand their assessment goals, priority areas to expand measurement, and datasets of potential interest. Following an initial consultation, IP3 researches and recommends supplemental indicators for a project. This sometimes includes recommendations to construct custom measures in order to meet a need or fill a gap. Having the option to include custom data work as part of a project is a great benefit to clients who are keen to dig into a specific issue where available data do not paint a full picture—or where there are data gaps.

IP3 Case Study: Leveraging Non-Governmental Data on Police Violence

On a recent project, a client sought to improve access to data about police violence for communities in their network. In the United States, good data about police violence–that communities trust–is lacking. Law enforcement agencies and governments fail to provide reliable, complete, high-fidelity data about police violence. There are multiple issues at play: local police departments report shootings by police to the federal government on a voluntary basis; there is no consistent mechanism for tracking nonfatal incidents of police violence; and deaths due to police violence are being underreported and misclassified in vital registries, to name a few.

To overcome these challenges and fill gaps, advocates have created data resources such as Mapping Police Violence. Mapping Police Violence, a project that seeks to document all police killings, makes its extensive database publicly available, with the mission to provide greater transparency and accountability for police departments as part of the ongoing work to end police violence in the U.S.

Keen to make use of this novel, community-centered dataset, the client and IP3 co-designed a measure of deaths by police violence. We used the Mapping Police Violence database, U.S. Census Bureau population counts, and techniques described by the CDC to develop the indicator. 

Without doubt, the measure we created is experimental. By no means does our indicator have the veracity that an established measure from a trusted source might, but it doesn’t carry the stigma that other indicators of police violence do. The client and communities in their network were excited to have the new data from a groundbreaking source, noting its value in making visible the scope of police violence and powering local advocacy efforts.

IP3 Case Study: Expanding Menu of Measures for Housing Equity

Another project recently prompted IP3 to explore measures related to upstream factors affecting housing equity and wealth-building. The landscape of housing affordability and economic opportunity in the U.S. has changed dramatically in recent decades, with housing prices ballooning in recent years. The established housing-related indicators did not provide a full picture of community conditions; the client wanted to dive deeper into housing economics and the relationship between housing costs and income in the region. Our team explored indicators related to historical redlining, gentrification, housing affordability, and the housing market, and selected strong measures for the project assessment. 

We zeroed in on two measures that build on an approach described by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for price-to-income ratio and price-to-rent ratio. Price-to-income ratio is an indicator of housing affordability and relates median home value and median household income. Similarly, the price-to-rent ratio is constructed from median home value and median gross rent and is an indicator of the profitability of house ownership. 

Using publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, IP3 designed an approach to construct price-to-income and price-to-rent measures. The data have supported community-led efforts to prioritize housing in their change-making work.

If you’re interested in learning more about how IP3 can support your team in using data to drive community change work and/or constructing a custom measure, get in touch today!

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