Distressed Communities

Introduction to the Distressed Communities Index (DCI)

The Distressed Communities Index (DCI) is a tool for measuring the comparative economic well-being of U.S. communities and helps illuminate ground-level disparities across the country. The DCI is derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Business Patterns and American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for 2016-2020, and sorts zip codes into quintiles of well-being: prosperous, comfortable, mid-tier, at risk, and distressed. In all, the DCI captures more than 99 percent of the U.S. population and 26,000-plus zip codes with at least 500 residents. 

The seven components of the index are:

This edition of the DCI is based on data covering 2016-2020, providing new insights into the spatial distribution of economic well-being as the nation headed into the economic and social volatility brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the top, we find prosperous communities booming in population and powering the lion’s share of the nation’s growth in new jobs and businesses. At the bottom, however, we see distressed communities—home to nearly 50 million people—still struggling to reap the benefits of the longest period of sustained economic growth in U.S. history. 

Seven metrics and five tiers of communities

The chart displays average values for the seven component metrics of the DCI across the five tiers of communities, here defined at the zip code level. Hover over a metric or tier to explore more.

The centerpiece of the DCI is an interactive map that allows users to explore data at the zip code and county levels.

Interested in learning more about your community? Explore the map here.

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