Welcome to the NAF Community Stress Index (CSI). We would like to take a moment to provide some information on this tool and the use of this tool.
The Community Stress Index examines five multi-dimensional domains and 16 indicators of quality of life in communities throughout the country – including indicators such as unemployment, high school graduates, access to health care, housing affordability and violent crime at the state, county, city, school district, and high school levels. The Community Stress Index achieves this by combining these 16 indicators to create an aggregate picture of the stressors affecting individual communities. Stress is real for every individual and community and comes in many forms. Often experienced as a strain or challenge, stress requires attention or action to uncover the contributing factors and find a solution that will improve the circumstance. In this context, the designers envision this tool being used in research, resource allocation, education leadership, and philanthropy, as an understanding of multiple community stressors is needed to better gauge the success of philanthropic and/or other community initiatives, especially in the context of educational impact.
Numerous factors influence the stress of communities. In order to select metrics for this project that provide a broad picture of community stress, NAF consulted experts from the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management to develop and guide us through the process of selection. The criteria used for selection of the metrics is included in the user guide. Landing on five multi-dimensional domains with 16 measurable indicators that can be applied to every community in the United States, the Community Stress Index aggregates data across multiple areas. These domains and indicators are listed below:
Unemployment (% +16 unemployed but seeking work)
Poverty (% 0-17 in poverty)
Access to broadband (% Households with subscription to any broadband service)
Single parent households (% Under 17 living with one parent)
High School graduates (% 25+ high-school graduates or equivalent)
Linguistic isolation (% limited English-speaking households)
Access to healthcare (% 6-18 with health insurance coverage)
Infant mortality (Infant deaths per 1,000 live births)
SNAP recipients (% Households with children under 18 receiving SNAP)
Low birth weight (% live births < 2.5 Kg)
Lead exposure (Lead-Exposure Risk Index)
Housing vacancy rate (% Housing vacancy rate)
Housing affordability (% Household’s spending > 50% income on housing)
Park access (% within 10-minute walk of green space)
Violent crime rate (Violent crimes / 100,000)
Incarceration rate (Jail incarceration / 100,000)
For all of these areas high score equals high stress or challenge; Low score equals low stress or challenge.
Composite Scores are provided for each of the five community domains on the CSI (Economic, Education, Housing, Health, and Crime) as well as a total aggregate score of community stress. Understanding what these data points are is critical to understanding the composite score.
Each domain has a number of indicators that make up its composite score. Using Education as an example, the two indicators listed are graduation rate and linguistic isolation. This means a school could have a low graduation rate (which would be a high score) and a low linguistic rate (which would be a low score). These two indicators are then used to formulate the composite Education score (giving equal weight to both), which provides a score in the Education domain that is the average of both indicators.
If you are more interested in one indicator variable over another (e.g., graduation rate vs. linguistic isolation) for the purpose of your work, you will want to pay special attention to the indicator of your choice. You have the option of exporting the data and viewing your indicator of interest there as well.
Asset-based framing has been considered closely in the language and potential use cases of this tool, and your feedback is welcome, as we consider new versions
The following is a list of exemplars consulted through this development process:
Why is this called Community Stress Index?
On the Community Stress Index, the word "stress" indicates challenge or systemic strain that might impose itself on community members and factors institutions must consider in attempting to serve that community effectively. In this case, a high score indicates that the community faces more challenge from the data or data category identified. The primary/domain fields populated in the Community Stress Index are Economics, Education, Health, Housing and Crime. Within each of those domains are a series of data points/indicators that correlate to the domain. Please see the Information Section of the User Guide for more details.
What does a high score and low score mean?
The higher the score, the greater the indication that members of the community are adversely impacted. High scores on the Community Stress Index are indicative of greater stress. For example, a community with a high score in the domain of “Economics” indicates that the area searched is under greater economic strain than a community exhibiting a low score.
Are there School Attendance Boundaries (SAB) on open enrollment districts/schools, including charters and magnets?
No, for schools that have open enrollment without school attendance boundaries, we are not able to provide the data at that level. However, our collaborators at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management describe in the user guide how calculations were done in the absence of a school attendance boundary. Please see Data Assembly Section in User Guide for more information.
How many schools are listed in the Community Stress Index?
The intent behind the Community Stress Index was to develop a tool that could drill down to the high school level nationally, making it as widely usable as possible. The index provides information on over 23,000 high schools nationwide, as listed by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).
Does the Community Stress Index include all schools or just public schools?
All schools identified by NCES are public high schools; for the purpose of this Index this includes magnet schools, charter schools, and traditional public high schools.
What are the main sources of data used in the Community Stress Index?
Data are pulled from multiple sources and is fully documented in the User Guide, but sources include Bureau of Labor and Statics; US Census Bureau; County Health Rankings; City Health Dashboard; and Vera Institute. For more details, please see the Community Stress Index User Guide.
Are any domains weighted more than others when creating the index’s composite score?
No, all domains are weighted evenly using the formula:
Why are we using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau?
The Community Stress Index uses data from multiple open data sources, including the American Community Survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. More detail is provided in the User Guide, and we do acknowledge systemic issues that come with relying solely on census tract data. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau is valuable for the purposes of the Community Stress Index because we wanted the index to be able to drill down to individual tracts and provide the user with information on multiple stressors in the area immediately surrounding schools throughout the country. We fully acknowledge that minorities are systematically undercounted in the American Community Survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Community Stress Index is not conveying population-based statistics, but hyper-localized, tract-level characteristics of an area around a given school. Put differently, census tracts are small and homogeneous in their data makeup, and their data tend to accurately represent the characteristics of each individual tract. Since the Community Stress Index does not aggregate a large number of tracts together to make assertions about population-based statistics, the systematic bias often accompanying census data is significantly reduced because we are interested in tract-level characteristics.
How can I use the information in the Community Stress Index?
We envision the index being used in multiple ways to help address complex problems facing our country. We built the tool with researchers, individuals responsible for resource allocation, education leaders, and philanthropists in mind and with the understanding that information on multiple community stressors is needed to better gauge success, especially in the context of educational impact. Below are a few quick use cases that our team was thinking about, as we developed this work:
a. Provide insight for individual leaders to facilitate better community service. b. Allow philanthropic users to align investment priorities with the intended spectrum area of need. c. Facilitate richer impact stories that are based in community data. d. Facilitate the identification of new areas where philanthropic groups and businesses may want to become involved. e. Facilitate the identification of work-based learning initiatives or other targeted programs addressing community need.
What do the asterisks and dagger symbols mean?
† = more than 3 data points missing * = score of higher than 0.5 on the Gini Index
What is a Gini Index and why is it provided as supplemental data on the Community Stress Index?
Since seven of the variables contributing to the Community Stress Index are collected at the county level, we wanted to include a county-level indicator of wealth inequality, which is the information the Gini Index conveys. This is important, supplementary information because individual counties throughout the United States can have high levels of income inequality. Therefore, interpretation of the Community Stress Index, which conveys stress at the census tract level, is enriched by further consideration of income inequality at the county level. For example, consider an individual county with high income inequality, meaning the county contains some very affluent communities and some under-invested in communities. By having information on the income inequality on the county, this will help the user further contextualize the results of the individual communities returned by the Community Stress Index.
Can I download the results from the Community Stress Index, or do I have to view them online?
The results for the whole index or just a searchable section can be downloaded and further analyzed offline. There is a “download” button in the upper right-hand corner of the tool.
What do the numbers in the index mean?
The numbers in the “Domain Totals” as well as the “Composite Score” columns are the main data points of the Community Stress Index. These numbers are always on a scale from 1-100, with higher scores indicating more community stress. If you hover your mouse over a score, you will also find the median score associated with that variable, as well as the percentile rank of the score you are hovering over. This provides further context to help the user contextualize results. For example, if an individual is looking at a score in the “Education” domain of 76, this is associated with a median score of 30 and a percentile rank of 98. This means that one-half the scores in the “Education” domain are above 30 (Median) and one-half are below 30. Furthermore, the 98th percentile (out of 100) indicates that a score of 76 in the education domain is very close to the highest stress score returned by any school in the "Education" domain.
What does it mean when data are missing?
Missing data were handled differently, when calculating the Community Stress Index, depending on each indicator. In all cases, however, the calculation of the composite score and the domain totals had to be adjusted and more weight is given to the data that was not missing in these cases. For a more detailed explanation, see the user guide – see notes on each indicator for missingness and under index calculation in the User Guide.
Can I share the Community Stress Index with anyone?
Yes! This index was built to serve our own need at NAF to have smarter solutions for understanding the dimensions of data available for communities we serve. But we know that we’re not the only organization who can benefit, and our goal is to share what we’ve created understanding that the goal to strengthen every community through mission-driven work like ours is a collective effort. Share the tool using the CSI link here or try one of the canned posts below for your social media. NAF has accounts on
Our handle is @NAFCareerAcads and our hashtag is #BeFutureReady.