Distressed Communities

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What data is used to create the DCI? 

The 2022 edition of the DCI is built from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates covering the years 2016-2020 and the Census Bureau’s Business Patterns datasets for 2016 and 2020. The 5-year ACS estimates are constructed from five years’ worth of data collection, reflecting the length of time required to compile enough data to provide meaningful and accurate estimates at fine geographic scales (such as zip codes) by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

For further information regarding DCI data and methodology, please look here

Does the most recent DCI account for any impacts due to COVID-19? 

Building off the prior question, the five underlying variables in the DCI derived from the ACS do capture part of the pandemic window, with 2020 representing one of five years of data collection feeding into the estimates for each geography. However, the estimates are still best thought of as pre-pandemic observations representing the top of the last economic cycle. The two other variables from Business Patterns, which are more responsive to cyclical changes in the economy (change in jobs and change in business establishments) actually reflect estimates ending the week of March 12th, 2020, or prior to any tangible effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Are the variables in the DCI weighted at all?

No, the variables are not weighted and all seven values carry equal weight. There is also no population weight. 

Are there any zip codes missing in the DCI? 

Zip codes and some counties are generally excluded from the DCI for three reasons:

  • A population fewer than 500 individuals;
  • Fewer than three establishments (according to Business Patterns data); and,
  • Missing ACS data.

In addition, we do not include any zip codes from Puerto Rico in our DCI due to incomplete data. 

If you look here under the “Data Notes” section of our DCI methodology page, you will find further information on missing zip codes in our dataset. 

Does the DCI include 5-digit or 9-digit zip codes?

The DCI is built using Census ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs), which map approximately onto most 5 digit ZIP codes created by the U.S. Postal Service, but do not align with more detailed 9 digit Postal Service ZIP codes. ZCTAs are a distinct statistical geography and should only be considered an approximation of ZIP codes.

How can I obtain a copy of the DCI?

The DCI is available for purchase here under “Get the Data.” Once the purchase is complete, you will receive a downloadable Excel workbook along with your receipt via email. 

What is the difference between the Scores Only dataset and Full Dataset? 

EIG offers two versions of the DCI: a Scores Only copy and a Full Dataset. The Scores Only version contains zip code and county level distress scores for the 2016-2020 period along with geographic identifying information. The Full Dataset includes geographic information, values for the variables underlying the index, distress scores, and demographic information for zip codes and counties. 

What is the purchase price? 

For academic, non-profit, and government entities, the Full Dataset costs $500 and the Scores Only version costs $100. For businesses, the Full Dataset is $2,000 and the Scores Only version is $500. 

Is there a discount offered for academics? 

There is a discount for academics already reflected in the prices under the “Get the Data” page. No further discounts or waivers are offered. 

Is there a sample dataset available for view before purchase? 

EIG offers a sample of both the Full Dataset and Scores Only version of the DCI for view before purchase. If interested in obtaining access to either sample, please contact [email protected]

Are previous vintages of the DCI available for purchase? 

As the methodology behind data collection has changed slightly over the years and the Census Bureau discourages comparing overlapping 5-Year ACS estimates as a panel, we do not offer previous vintages of the DCI for purchase by the public. Furthermore, zip code boundaries have changed over time, complicating historical comparisons. For these reasons, the DCI is not intended to be used for time series analysis. For any additional questions, please contact [email protected].

What is the licensing agreement process?

A licensing agreement is needed only if you decide to purchase the Full Dataset, and it is not required for the Scores Only version. 

All individuals who wish to access the full underlying dataset must first sign EIG’s data licensing agreement. After purchase, you will receive an email requesting your signature of the agreement (covers citation, dissemination, usage, etc.) and a brief description of your project. Once EIG receives the signed agreement, we will countersign and forward along the final agreement and Full Dataset. 

If you have any questions regarding the licensing agreement process, please contact [email protected]

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