Neighborhood
Access to life, work, and play

What makes a neighborhood truly livable? Two important qualities are access and convenience. Compact neighborhoods make it easier for residents to reach the things they need most, from jobs to grocery stores to libraries. Nearby parks and places to buy healthy food help people make smart choices, and diverse, walkable neighborhoods with shops, restaurants, and movie theatres make local life interesting. Additionally, neighborhoods served by good access to more distant destinations via transit or automobile help residents connect to jobs, health care, and services throughout the greater community.

How does my community compare to neighborhoods across the country?

  • Top Third
  • Middle Third
  • Bottom Third

Proximity to destinations Access to grocery stores and farmers’ markets

stores and markets Median US neighborhood: 0.0

Number of grocery stores and farmers’ markets within a half-mile: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

It’s hard to make healthy food choices if grocery stores and farmers’ markets aren’t nearby. People living in low-income households and individuals who don’t drive are more likely to rely on nearby food sources—and may end up paying more if their only grocery option is a convenience store. Farmers’ markets can also serve as important community gathering places. The Index gives higher scores to communities that provide a wide variety of healthy food options within walking distance.

Source: Grocery store locations come from Esri Business Analyst private data; farmers’ market locations come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, 2013 Farmers’ Market Directory 

Proximity to destinations Access to parks

parks Median US neighborhood: 0.0

Number of parks within a half-mile: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

Parks provide opportunities for people to exercise, gather with friends, or simply enjoy the outdoors. It’s no wonder that most people surveyed by AARP value having a park within walking distance. Communities with multiple nearby parks may provide greater access to trails, athletic facilities, picnic tables, playgrounds, and more. Here, the Index counts the total number of city, county, state, and national parks that are within walking distance of a neighborhood.

Source: 2013 Esri Parks Shapefile private data

Proximity to destinations Access to libraries

libraries Median US neighborhood: 0.0

Number of libraries located within a half-mile: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

Libraries promote literacy, provide Internet access and other services, and serve as community gathering spaces. They can be particularly important for low-income residents, who may lack the money to purchase books or Internet access at home. The Index measures the number of libraries within walking distance of a neighborhood, capping values at 1 since few neighborhoods have more than one library. 

Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2012 Public Library Outlet Data File

Proximity to destinations Access to jobs by transit

jobs Median US neighborhood: 0

Number of jobs accessible within a 45-minute transit commute: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

Thousands of commuters use buses, trains, and subways each day to get to work. For these workers, convenient and dependable transit isn’t just a perk—it’s a necessity. Good public transportation generally costs less than driving and parking, encourages more walking, and reduces air pollution. Here, the Index measures the number of jobs accessible within a 45-minute commute by transit, taking into account walking time to and from stations and transfer times, giving more credit to nearby jobs than those farther away. Note: Data are available only for areas where transit agencies provide information to an online mapping database. 

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013 Smart Location Database

Proximity to destinations Access to jobs by auto

jobs Median US neighborhood: 55,312

Number of jobs accessible within a 45-minute automobile commute: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

Many of our metrics look at healthy, affordable transportation options like public transit, walking, and bicycling—but what about people who depend on their cars to get around? Most Americans drive to work, and most prefer a shorter commute. In this case, we examine how well neighborhoods allow people to access jobs. Better accessibility means less time sitting in the car, less money spent on gas and maintenance, and more time with friends and family. The Index measures the number of jobs that are accessible within a 45-minute drive, giving more credit to nearby jobs than those farther away.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013 Smart Location Database

 

Mixed-use neighborhoods Diversity of destinations

index from 0 to 1 Median US neighborhood: 0.81

Mix of jobs within a mile: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

The mix of jobs within a mile reflects the likelihood that a variety of destinations and services are available within the neighborhood. Livable neighborhoods make it easy for residents to walk to a diverse range of destinations and services, including shopping, entertainment, health care, and more. The Index measures how well a neighborhood offers convenient access to retail, entertainment, health care, education, and food or personal services. Measured on a scale from 0 to 1, higher values are given to communities that offer better access. 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data 

Compact neighborhoods Activity density

jobs and people per sq. mi. Median US neighborhood: 3,567

Combined number of jobs and people per square mile: measured at the neighborhood scale, higher values are better

Generally speaking, the more compact a neighborhood, the less distance between residents and nearby jobs, businesses, or services. Compact neighborhoods make it easier to accomplish errands by foot, and make it more likely that neighbors will have the type of chance encounters that build community. To capture both of these benefits, the Index measures the combined density of jobs and people in a neighborhood.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census and 2011 Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data

 

 

Personal safety Crime rate

crimes per 10,000 people Median US neighborhood: 304

Combined violent and property crimes per 10,000 people: measured at the county scale, lower values are better

High crime rates make people feel unsafe and isolated in their own communities. Crime-free streets and public areas are a fundamental component of vibrant neighborhoods. Everyone deserves to live in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable socializing, exercising, or just hanging out in public. The Index looks at the combined number of violent and property crimes per 10,000 people in a county.

Source: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2012 Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data

Neighborhood quality Vacancy rate

of units are vacant Median US neighborhood: 8.8%

Percentage of vacant housing units: measured at the neighborhood scale, lower values are better

Highly livable neighborhoods are vibrant places that nurture a strong sense of community. A neighborhood with many vacant homes can indicate substandard or poorly maintained housing. Here, the Index measures the percentage of vacant housing units in a neighborhood.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007-2011 American Community Survey 

Mixed-use neighborhoods State and local TOD programs

State and local programs that support transit-oriented development

Transit-oriented development (TOD) creates walkable, diverse communities surrounding transit stations. These communities encourage people to take public transportation by making daily destinations like jobs, housing, and shops convenient to reach by transit. However, TOD development can be costly and complex, which is why the Index gives credit to states and communities with programs that offer planning and technical assistance, infrastructure funding, land assembly, TOD-supportive zoning, or tax incentives for TOD developers or businesses located near transit.

Source: AARP 2016, Communities Embracing Development Near Transit: A Snapshot of Transit-Oriented Development Efforts across the United States (paper forthcoming); National Conference of State Legislatures.

Commitment to livability State and local plans to create age-friendly communities

Communities that have taken comprehensive steps to prepare for the aging of the U.S. population

By 2030, there will be twice as many Americans over the age of 65 as there were in 2000. To help residents live comfortably in all stages of life, communities must provide opportunities like convenient transportation, walkable neighborhoods, affordable and accessible housing, multi-generational social opportunities, and inclusive business practices—just to name a few. To guide communities toward making these forward-thinking changes, several organizations have also established peer-learning networks and identified processes to help make communities age-friendly. The Index gives credit to states, metropolitan areas, counties, and cities that are part of the AARP or World Health Organization (WHO) networks of Age-Friendly Communities or recipients of Grantmakers in Aging Community AGEnda grants. In the future, the Index may award communities that participate in other age-friendly initiatives.

Sources: AARP 2016 Age-Friendly Communities Member List, WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, and Grantmakers in Aging 2016 Age-Friendly America database