Top Ten Columbus Suburbs: How They Rate
Editors gathered safety, housing and education data from 18 Columbus -area cities to analyze how they stack up side-by-side. Only the top 10 suburbs have been ranked.
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How did we do it?
When we decided to produce this story, we knew we wanted to create an index by which we could rank Columbus suburbs on their merits. And we knew we weren’t equipped to do the job on our own.
We found an excellent resource in Ohio State University political science Professor Emeritus Herb Weisberg, whose career focused on studying voter behavior via statistical models. Weisberg used a standard method called factor analysis that finds underlying themes, or correlations, in a big set of data. The method weights some data more than others, resulting in a more accurate ranking.
Editors chose the criteria used by Weisberg, and staffers pulled data from various public sources. The analysis is objective, but the criteria are not—editors had to start the process by asking, “What do people value about life in a suburb?” There are no absolute answers to that question, but we decided housing, education and safety are the three overarching reasons. Then we found data to help answer our question.
While the ratings on pages 58 and 59 are scientific, stories in this package that single out suburbs’ strengths—Worthington has a “Great Main Street Scene” and Hilliard is a “Great Place to Start a Family”—were based on a combination of shoe-leather reporting and observations editors made in the data. —Kristen Schmidt
Choosing the suburbs
We analyzed 18 suburbs with a minimum population of 5,000 people and chose only cities within a specific radius around Columbus.
We looked at statistics sent annually by police departments to the FBI for its Uniform Crime Reporting Program. For each suburb, we recorded major violent and property crimes from 2011, the most recent year of complete data available. Weisberg converted all the crime numbers to per-capita rates, to even the playing field among suburbs of varying sizes.
We collected average home sales price data from 2008 and 2012, providing a five-year window into housing prices in these suburbs. We considered the percentage of owner-occupied homes in a suburb, on the premise that homeownership is a sign of long-term investment by residents in the city. And we considered the property tax bill for a home valued at $200,000.
We chose broad-stroke data measuring performance of students from elementary to high school. Criteria included: 2011-12 standardized test scores for third- and 10th-graders, 2011-12 college entrance examinations and the 2012 preliminary school report card grade. None of the school districts in the suburbs we studied have been implicated in the statewide attendance data scandal.