Community Characteristics

These distinctive characteristics represent factors which have a strong influence on this community. Factors are considered ''distinctive'' if this community falls into the top 25% for these characteristics nationally.

How are Community Characteristics defined?
Several factors are relevant to understanding the nature of a community for purposes of residential characteristics. These factors include building style, general affluence, residency patterns, and proximity to colleges among others. Together, these factors provide insights into the core dimensions of neighborhood differentiation.

Why do some reports contain many characteristics while others only have one or two? (How is a characteristic determined to be distinctive?)
The majority of communities are considered to be ''average'' in most categories. It's important to understand that these are not performance categories. For example, a neighborhood with some high-rises and some single family residences would be considered average for dwelling type.

To be considered distinctive, a community must fall within the top 25% for the characteristic. For example, if 75 percent of the communities in the US have fewer high-rises we consider the community distinctive for containing many high-rises.

What do the sports teams' designations represent?

  • AAA - Triple A League Classification in Minor League Baseball. Highest Level of Minor Leagues, just below the Major Leagues.
  • AA – Double A League Classification in Minor League Baseball
  • A – Class A League Classification in Minor League Baseball
  • R – Rookie/Instructional League Classification in Minor League Baseball

Population Demographics

Population, household and median age statistics are based primarily on the 2000 US Census data projected forward to the present day. Some of the factors considered in this projection are:

  • historical patterns of population growth and migration
  • independent collection of population counts
  • the latest Census age distributions

The result is a comprehensive set of population estimates and projections which includes the knowledge of State, County, and private agencies about their detailed areas but also ensures that the total population is consistent with the Census Bureau estimates, which have proved extremely reliable over time.

Household counts and median age statistics undergo a similarly rigorous procedure.

How often is the data updated? This content is updated every year after the release of interim statistics by the Census Bureau and other agencies. This process generally happens over the summer and is released in the fall.

Weather Risk

Weather risks define the relative chance, based on historical occurrence, of specific, potentially damaging, weather events. Weather event data is publicly available from government sources. This data specifies the origin point, and in some cases, the path of these events. To determine risk, a spacial analysis i s performed based on the location, frequency and strength of events within a proximity to an area.

Why is there a high risk if there have never been any hurricanes (tornados, wind events, damaging hail) in this area?
Risk values are tied to areas larger than single zip codes. For example, if a hurricane has never landed in a particular county but has crossed all of the neighboring counties at some point, then a relatively high risk might be determined. Weather events are unpredictable and at a micro level (such as zip codes, towns, and residential neighborhoods) the occurrence of such events appears random. However, if one looks at a larger area - such as a county or region - patterns become more obvious and evident.

What are the sources for hurricane risk?
Hurricane track data was obtained from publicly available USGS records. Atlantic hurricane coverage is from 1896 to the late 1990's, covering a total of 950+ storms. Pacific hurricane coverage is from 1949 to the late 1990's, covering a total of 660+ storms. Storm locations are tracked every six hours while the storm maintains the minimum wind speed required to be classified as a tropical storm. Along with location, the database includes information on wind speed and barometric pressure. The risk indexes are calculated using an area of decreasing severity along the path of the storm track and a width 100 miles to each side.

What are the sources for tornado risk?
Tornado records have been collected and published by the USGS since 1950. Unlike hurricanes, which are always presented as a hurricane path, tornadoes are presented either as a path or as a single touchdown point. Nearly 40,000 individual tornado events have been recorded and were used in the risk analysis. Each tornado point and path was assigned an area of decreasing influence which was then applied in aggregate to each community location.

What are the sources for damaging hail risk?
Damaging hail records are available from the USGS from 1955 and include over 85,000 individual events. Damaging hail is defined as hail of at least 3/4 inch in diameter. Filters were applied to this database to derive relative frequency and intensity measures which were then applied to the community locations.

What are the sources for damaging wind risk?
Wind risk events have been recorded by various agencies since 1955, and include over 115,000 separate events. A damaging event has winds of over 50 knots. Wind events do not include tornados and hurricanes.

What are the sources for earthquake risk?
Quake risk is derived from two primary sources:

  • The epicenter locations of significant earthquakes during this century. The quality of the additional information is significantly improved in recent years. Quakes in the 3.0 range are included only for the very recent past, while large quakes are tracked back to the turn of the century.
  • An area analysis of earthquake risk and damage derived from USGS models.
These influence areas of these sources are then applied to the community locations.

How is total weather risk calculated?
The total weather risk value represents a single index combining damaging wind, hail, hurricane and tornado events. Earthquake risk is not included. This index is based on the relative damage expected from each of the four types of events. The relative influence of each of the four weather event types is not equal and was derived by weighting estimates of total annual damage caused by each type of storm.

Education Climate Index

This measure helps identify ZIP codes with the best conditions for quality schools. It does not claim to be an indicator of any individual school, its performance, or qualities. The Education Climate Index is largely a socio-economic indicator weighted heavily toward those characteristics that reflect education. At present, no reliable measure of the quality of the schools at the ZIP code level is available. It is possible, however, to identify ZIP codes which are likely to have high quality schools by identifying ZIP codes with the social and economic conditions which would most likely lead to quality schools. These conditions are undoubtedly related in some way to the individuals living within those ZIP codes. In order to express this relationship, a new measure was developed that is more strongly related to the quality of schools in an area than other social status measures.

How should I read this index?
ZIP codes are ranked from 1 (low) to 5 (high) in whole number increments. If the report you are viewing contains fractions or decimals, that is the result of combining the index values from multiple ZIP codes. The values are as follows:

  • 0 = Not Classified
  • 1 = Low
  • 2 = Below Average
  • 3 = Average
  • 4 = Above Average
  • 5 = High

When interpreting these values, it is important to remember that the vast majority of places in the US will be average. These places show a strong interest in education.

What are the sources for this index? It is based on the U.S. Census Bureau's Socioeconomic Status (SES) measure with weights adjusted to more strongly reflect the educational aspect of social status (education 2:1 to income & occupation). Factors in this measure are income, educational achievement, and occupation of persons within the ZIP code. Since this measure is based on the population of an entire Zip code, it may not reflect the nature of an individual school.

Highest Level Attained

This value indicates the percent of the population over the age of 15 at each maximum attainment level. A maximum attainment level = the point at which the individual stopped their education. Example: If someone goes to 1 year of college, their maximum level would be "Some College." This person is only counted toward this single attainment level.


White Collar / Blue Collar breakdown is largely based upon statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Information about which occupations persons are employed in is analyzed to determine the percentage of the population attributed to each employment type. For the most part, white collar and blue collar are defined as follows:

  • White-collar: Workers performing tasks which are considered less physically laborious. These jobs often pay more than blue-collar jobs. Include salaried, professional jobs (lawyers, doctors, etc.) as well as employees in administrative or clerical positions. In many cases, managers of blue-collar workers are included in this group. The term white-collar derives from the traditional white, button down shirts worn by many workers of such professions.
  • Blue-collar: Workers, generally considered "working class" who perform manual or technical labor, such as factory assembly work, most construction work, or in technical maintenance "trades".

Income by dollar range

This chart provides the number of households in each income range. Household income includes the income of all members of the household.

Fair Market Rents

FMRs are gross rent estimates. They include the shelter rent plus the cost of all tenant-paid utilities, except telephones, cable or satellite television service, and internet service.

Crime Risk

Crime Risk is defined as the chance that a crime will be committed against your person or property when compared against every other ZIP code in the United States. This is not a count of the actual incidence of crime in an area. Risk indexes are useful in that they level the playing field in terms of the size of the location and the number of persons living in it.

For example, large cities will have a higher number of crimes in total than small towns. A simple reporting of the number of crimes in both places would not give you an accurate picture of their relative safety. However, by comparing the risk index values of several locations of interest you can quickly see, regardless of location size, how they compare in terms of actual risk of future crime.

OnBoard uses sophisticated statistical modeling methods based upon industry best practices in order to provide Crime Risk data. As with all statistics, there is a lag between collection and distribution from government sources.

What is a "100 base" index?
The crime index is based upon a national average = 100. This means that places at or around an index value of 100 have approximately "average" crime risk for the US. It should be noted that "average" risk is actually an indication of very low crime. Consider where you live, and cities you have visited, against how safe you felt or the number of times you have had a crime committed against you. Most people are not constantly in fear of being robbed or murdered. It is only in the places that have extremely high crime that one would generally feel unsafe.

What would be a typical "city" or "country" crime risk?
As one might expect, crime risk is generally higher in urban environments. As a general rule of thumb, a typical densely populated urban areas might have twice the national average crime risk (200), while sparsely populated rural area might have half the national crime risk (50).

But I live in a very safe neighborhood. Why is the crime risk so high?
There are several factors that might contribute to this:

  • Keep in mind that a crime risk of 150 does not indicate high crime and is very typical for cities - even in their safest neighborhoods.
  • ZIP codes often contain several disparate areas. Perhaps you live in a gated community, but there may be other areas included in the ZIP code. Some times, truck stops, highway corridors, commercial / industrial areas located in the ZIP code can have a negative effect on overall crime rates.
  • Neighborhoods are constantly changing. The risk indexes are based upon the most recent seven years of FBI crime reports. While the index is weighted more heavily toward the more recent reports, neighborhoods can change quickly with new development and population growth.
  • High income, affluent neighborhoods often demonstrate a high risk for property crimes such as motor vehicle theft and larceny.

What are the sources for this data?
The risk index is based on extensive statistical analysis of the most recent several years of crime reports from the vast majority of enforcement jurisdictions nationwide. The primary historical source for this information is the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Each year the FBI collects crime statistics for over 16,000 city, county and state law enforcement jurisdictions. Jurisdictional participation exceeds 95% annually. The current sources are the six most recent full UCRs as well as the two recent preliminary reports released by the FBI. Additional sources include local and regional law enforcement offices. As with most governmental sources, the UCR report lags present day by two to three years. There may have been significant increases or decreases in crime risk in the intervening period. We encourage you to consult with a knowledgeable local Real Estate agent or contact the local police department for additional information.

How is the index actually calculated?
Extensive statistical modeling was used to account for the general overall decline in crime throughout the US, eliminate local anomalies, and incorporate additional locally reported crime statistics. Thus, while crime has decreased nationally, our average crime risk remains 100, and areas that have seen crime declines equivalent to the national decline will not see changes in their relative risk rates. Each of the seven crime types is modeled independently and different models exist for the seven geographic regions of the US. These models were applied to a fine level of geography (census block groups) and then modeled up to the zip code, place and county levels. These results were then weighted by population, aggregated to the national total, and then scaled to match the preliminary FBI crime estimates for the most recently available year.