Developed by the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), and funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Equality Indicators is a comprehensive tool that helps cities understand and measure equality in their city. This tool works across multiple areas and measures the disparities faced by disadvantaged groups (those most vulnerable to inequality, such as racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, or individuals living in poverty) across those domains.
This tool can be used as a framework to support policy development, demonstrating the effectiveness of current policies and initiatives, and highlighting areas where new policies and initiatives may be needed. Additionally, use of the tool demonstrates a commitment to transparency and accountability and to improving conditions for disadvantaged groups. Engaging communities in developing the tool provides a means of ensuring that the voices and ideas of community members are being heard and reflected in local decision-making.
Equality Indicators in New York City
The Equality Indicators tool was initially developed and piloted in New York City. The NYC model measures equality across six broad areas, including economy, education, health, housing, justice, and services. Within these areas, it uses 96 specific indicators to examine conditions for 12 disadvantaged groups: children, immigrants, individuals currently in jail or on probation, individuals living in poverty, individuals with a physical or intellectual disability, individuals with less than a high-school diploma, LGBTQ individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, seniors, single parents, and women. Baseline findings for New York City were released in 2015 and indicators are tracked annually thereafter. Scores from 2015 and 2016 suggested that across areas, disadvantaged groups were almost twice as likely as those less disadvantaged to experience negative outcomes.
First Cohort of Equality Indicators Cities
In 2017, five cities that are part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network were selected to join the first cohort of Equality Indicators cities: Dallas, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tulsa. These cities will work with ISLG to build frameworks that are tailored to the priorities and needs of each city and will complement the comprehensive Resilience Strategies developed as member cities of 100RC.
Equality Indicators FAQ
- What makes ISLG’s Equality Indicators different from other Indicator Projects?
Almost all academic work around measuring inequality looks at it from a global or national level. But we were more interested in looking at how inequality plays out in its various forms at the city level. These indicators compare most and least disadvantaged groups. They also employ a unique scoring approach for aggregating findings and for tracking change over time.
- How can it be applied in a real-world context?
It serves as a tool for policymakers and communities alike. Policymakers can develop realistic targets and specific interventions for reducing inequalities at the local and neighborhood level based on the data. It can also help identify priorities for funding, resources, and programs in areas with the greatest or worsening inequalities.Communities themselves can also use it. Since these indicators are built with community input, it becomes an accessible way for communities to hold government officials, at local, state, and national levels, more accountable for providing equal opportunities for everyone.
- What is the definition of “Equality” for this indicator project based off of?
Our thinking of Equality is largely informed by non-discrimination clauses embedded in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Drawing on this declaration, “equality” is defined as follows: “Everyone has the same economic, educational, health, housing, justice, and service outcomes regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender, single parenthood, age, immigration status, place of residence and other characteristics.”
- Have other cities, states, or countries been able to successfully advocate for change as a result of indicator tools?
Yes. One of the best examples is in the U.K. where Equality Indicators like the ones ISLG has developed are used to establish government agencies based on a cross-agency approach to human rights and equity. The U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Government Equalities Office (GEO) are two examples. They are charged with monitoring and evaluating the progress towards equality and human rights, taking account of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, transgender status, and religion or belief.
Learn more at equalityindicators.org.