Deciding How Many Indicators to Map

The decision about how many indicators to include in your equity atlas should be a strategic one guided by your project’s goals. However, given the cost of acquiring, preparing, and maintaining each indicator, strategic considerations will need to be balanced with financial and practical ones. This page offers some guidelines to keep in mind.

Indices and Summary Scores

Creating an index that rolls multiple indicators up into a summary score that measures the level of “equity” or “opportunity” in a community can provide an effective framework for communicating your project’s findings.

The power of this approach is illustrated by the Kirwan Institute’s Opportunity Maps.

Click here for more information about the potential benefits and limitations of using this approach in the context of an equity atlas project.

If your goal is to create an equity atlas to serve as an analytical tool that can be used on an ongoing basis by a wide range of stakeholders for many different kinds of planning and policy decisions, you should aim to include as many indicators as possible. Your intended users will have diverse priorities and data needs, so including a wide range of indicators will make the equity atlas relevant to more people. Including a broader range of indicators will also allow users to experiment, triangulate, and explore the intersections between different issues.

For equity atlases that are intended to inform a particular issue or decision-making process or to support a specific advocacy agenda, the indicators can be more narrowly focused. But it is still important to include a broad enough range of indicators to provide a full and balanced picture of local conditions.

The number of indicators you include should be informed by the value of each indicator to the equity atlas project as a whole, a realistic assessment of the immediate and long-term costs of each indicator, and the capacity of your intended audience to make use of each indicator.