Insight: Rankling* Neighbourhoods

On August 14, 2013 Toronto Life released their August issue which included a ranking of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, found in: The Best Places to Live in the City: A (Mostly) Scientific Ranking of All 140 Neighbourhoods in Toronto. The article presented an overall score for each neighbourhood within the City and ranked them accordingly, while providing a detailed scorecard for each neighbourhood. The Martin Prosperity Institute contributed to this article by collecting the data and defining the methodology for scoring and ranking the neighbourhoods. Data was gathered from a variety of sources including Statistics Canada, City of Toronto statistical research, Toronto Police Service, the Centre for Research on Inner City Health and the Fraser Institute. As expected, the neighbourhood rankings generated discussion throughout the city in regards to the results. This Insight will provide an explanation of the metrics and data used for the Best Places to Live in the City ranking.

The neighbourhoods profiled in the report were the 140 neighbourhoods defined by the City of Toronto. The City of Toronto defines the boundaries of each neighbourhood based on a set of criteria to ensure that similar populations and services are found within each neighbourhood, and as demographics change over time, so do the boundaries of the neighbourhoods. We realize that there were concerns about the boundaries used in the report and how nearby neighbourhoods could have very different scores, but this is partially because we only counted data that fell within the neighbourhood boundaries, and not in close proximity. A full description of the City of Toronto’s neighbourhood profiles and criteria can be found here.

In order to create an overall ranking for each neighbourhood, we compiled data from the sources below, which are representative indicators of the following ten categories of Housing, Crime, Transit, Shopping, Health and Environment, Entertainment, Community Engagement, Diversity, Schools and Employment. Each neighbourhood’s individual score for each of the categories is available as a score out of 100. The score was assigned based on the maximum performance among all neighbourhoods so the score represents the percentile of that neighbourhood in comparison to the rest of the city. When more than one indicator was used within each of the ten categories, the percentiles were equally weighted and the average was used as the category score.

The data used within each category is as follows (scores were reversed for cases in which more of a particular attribute would be a negative, in so that higher scores are always more positive):

  • Housing: We collected a benchmark average, year over year % change in housing value and, income, and then created an affordability index, which is one minus the ratio of average house cost to average household income for the neighbourhood. The data is from Market Watch.
  • Crime: We included statistics on firearms incidents, assaults, sexual assaults, break and enters, robberies, vehicle thefts, murder, arson — for these indicators, the source is Wellbeing Toronto.
  • Transit: The transit data (TTC overcrowded routes and number of TTC stops) is also from Wellbeing Toronto and organized at the neighbourhood level.
  • Shopping: Defined as the total number of grocery stores per square kilometer (NAICS Code 445110) divided by neighbourhood area. The data only includes grocery stores and supermarkets of all sizes, but not convenience stores. Grocery stores were used as a proxy for other kinds of stores as certain neighbourhoods might not have other types of commercial retail, but generally had a grocery store. Data is from Statistics Canada, Canadian Business Patterns for the year 2011.
  • Health: We included data on Colorectal Cancer Screenings, Breast Cancer Screenings, Diabetes Prevalence, Health Providers, Tree Cover, Green Spaces, and Polluting Facilities. Data was acquired from Wellbeing Toronto, collected by the Center for Research on Inner City Health.
  • Entertainment Options: This data is from Wellbeing Toronto and includes community spaces and sports facilities, which are Parks, Forestry and Recreation run sites. The data is found here.
  • Community Engagement: Data is from Wellbeing Toronto. We’ve used Voter Turnout rates and City Beautification as collected by the City of Toronto.
  • Diversity: Diversity measures used include Visible Minorities, Inequality (Gini coefficient), Education (bachelor’s degree and college certificate) and the City of Toronto’s own Diversity Index in this category. This data at the neighbourhood level is from Wellbeing Toronto.
  • Schools: We used the Fraser Institute’s 2013 report card scores for both primary and secondary schools. Schools were averaged across the neighbourhood — their report card is an authoritative source on school performance available here.
  • Employment: Number of unemployed, number of businesses (that are located in the neighbourhood), local employment and average family income, from Wellbeing Toronto.

Exhibit 1: Overall neighbourhood ranking component weights

Overall neighbourhood ranking component weights

After a score was created for each category, the categories were combined to create an overall Best Places to Live score and ranking for each neighbourhood. We compiled the overall score for each neighbourhood by weighting every category. The weighting system was created by surveying Toronto Life’s readers, who told us what they prioritize when choosing where to live, and then adjusted the rankings accordingly: housing is weighted highest in the rankings, at 15 per cent; crime at 13 per cent; transit and shopping at 11 each; health and entertainment at 10 each; community and diversity at eight each; and, schools and employment at seven each. Therefore the overall score and rankings were heavily based on what the Toronto Life readers that were surveyed prioritized as the most important categories to them.

An issue with creating a neighbourhood ranking is that different individuals prioritize different characteristics. This ranking is the result of a survey and weighted the data categories accordingly, but the results are of course still up for individual interpretation. This Insight has attempted to provide a detailed explanation of the data used in the Toronto Life’s The Best Places to Live in the City: A (Mostly) Scientific Ranking of All 140 Neighbourhoods in Toronto report. While this has hopefully clarified the results, we are sure that the debate is likely to continue.

* Yes, we mean rankling

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.