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Equity Index

Tacoma's Equity Index

Our neighborhoods are full of amazing, talented people who bring experience, culture and education from here and around the world. Which is why we are committed to investing in all of our communities in ways that enhance their character and make them more livable across our neighborhoods.


We are still feeling the effects of decades of intentional disinvestment that harmed communities of color at disproportional rates. To transform into an antiracist city and reverse the inequities caused by the negative impacts of racist policies, practices and zoning, will take diligence, persistent determination, and intentional antiracist management of investment. 


The Equity Index is a data-driven tool to see where your projects, policies, programs or services can have the largest impact on addressing inequity and where investment can provide the biggest improvement in factors that impact life outcomes. 


The City of Tacoma uses the Equity Index to identify, track, and close disparities, and prioritize investments based on where and who has access to opportunity, for example opportunity to safely walk to school, opportunity to earn a living wage job, opportunity to access healthy food and opportunity to have safe and health environmental interactions.


Simply put, a resident who has access to many transit routes has higher opportunity and accessibility than a resident who has access to limited routes and no sidewalks. 


There are 32 indicators, which are used to assess community strengths and disparities and help identify how we can make investments to increase resources and interrupt inequity.

Tacoma Equity Index Map


Pierce County Equity Index Map


Ask a question or share feedback, ideas, stories


2024 Data Set Equity Index


Making Strategic Investments

The Equity Index is a significant part of our strategy to connect transform to an antiracist city and realize the City’s strategic goals, council priorities, department initiatives, and other assessments.


The inequitable opportunities available to Tacoma residents didn’t happen overnight, and they did not naturally occur. Decades of systems, policies, and practices shaped the city we see today and prevent us from meeting the full potential of our community laid out in Tacoma 2025.Highlighted by community members in the 2025 community engagement process, the City began its journey to transition to an anti-racist city. Part of that work was casting the vision that all policies must be antiracist. Resolution 40622 formally acknowledges that the City of Tacoma’s existing systems have not adequately served the needs of everyone in our community and, in particular, have not adequately served the needs of Black community members and other community members of color. It affirms the City of Tacoma’s commitment to improving existing systems for all community members.  The Equity Index is one tool that helps us meet these expectations.


Resources and Presentations

  • See Tacoma's original Equity Profile developed by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity's Opportunity Mapping Research to learn more about the development of our initial indicators.  

Previous Presentations: 





Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Equity Index?

The Equity Index is an interactive mapping tool which visually highlights areas of Tacoma where residents have the most access to opportunity and areas where residents are further away from opportunity. We map opportunity using data that fits into five categories which the community identified as being important in the 2015-2025 strategic plan. There are 34 indicators which are distributed into five categories: livability, accessibility, economy, education, and environmental health. The equity overview option shows how access to opportunity is distributed across Tacoma. 


The City of Tacoma uses the Equity Index to prioritize investments based on where and who has access to opportunity, for example opportunity to safely walk to school, opportunity to earn a living wage job, opportunity to access healthy food, etc. A resident who has access to many transit routes has higher opportunity and accessibility than a resident who has access to limited routes and no sidewalks.

What is opportunity and how do you define equity?

Tacoma’s Strategic Plan, Tacoma 2025, is about creating the opportunity for Tacoma residents to enjoy a high quality of life, earn a living wage, have access to education, and help shape their neighborhoods and city. In Tacoma, equity and empowerment are top priorities, meaning that all Tacoma residents must have equitable opportunities to reach their full potential and share in the benefits of community progress. In other words, equity is when everyone has access to the opportunities necessary to satisfy their essential needs, advance their well-being and achieve their full potential. 


Very High Opportunity represents locations that have better outcomes because of access to better opportunities to succeed and excel in life. These better outcomes include things like high performing schools, access to adequate transportation, safe neighborhoods, livable wage employment, good health outcomes such as higher life expectancies, and safe and healthy environmental conditions.


In contrast, Low Opportunity areas have worse outcomes because they have more obstacles and barriers to opportunity within the area. These communities have limited access to institutional and societal investments that limit their quality of life. 


Achieving equity requires intentionally building equity into what we do, how we do it, and how we approach our collective vision. This means recognizing that historical policies and practices have made vastly different investments in different communities. It means centering the voices most impacted by the issues we face as a community. It means reflecting the community we serve. In addition, it means that we should develop our policies, programs, and services with equity as an intentional, central component of everything that we do. 

What do I use it for? How do I use it?

The Equity Index is a source of reliable data to utilize while making decisions. The possibilities are endless, from prioritizing investments to planning community engagement. Instead of time-consuming surveys and comparing data sources, the Equity Index is one tool in the toolbox to help support equitable decision-making. We caution against a shallow analysis of the data. The Equity Index should be paired with a deeper analysis which can include community voice, specific data, analysis of other factors and impacts, etc. 


Check out our Equity Index User Guide for more information about how to use the Equity Index. 

What if I add my own data, overlay with my own map, or propose an indicator?

Reach out to our team by utilizing the contact button! We can work to support your requests.  

How did you create the Equity Index?

Tacoma 2025 is the Strategic Plan for Tacoma, a community-designed vision developed by more than 2,400 Tacoma residents who worked together to envision what the future of Tacoma could look like. It is a strategic plan that acts as a compass for the City, pointing us in the direction of what we need to prioritize in order to achieve that vision. It does this by helping to direct our efforts and resources in ways that reflect our growing community’s evolving needs, while centering equity.  


In 2015, The City of Tacoma adopted the Empowerment and Equity Framework and Tacoma 2025. These two products combined set a community vision for Tacoma as an inclusive and equitable place to live, learn, work and play and gave staff a directive to make our service delivery more equitable and commit to equity in policy decision making.  


The City of Tacoma worked with the Kirwan Institute out of the Ohio State University to develop an opportunity index that evaluates census block groups within the City of Tacoma. Community Attributes helped to develop the user interface tool. This allows us to operationalize equity and make data informed decisions for equitable service delivery. The Equity Index is just one tool in the toolbox and should be paired with additional data, research, community engagement, and more to make an equitable decision. 

Why are higher opportunity areas labeled red/darker color?

Colors in the map have been intentionally reversed to counter historical and often current representations of low income or communities of color asnegative. The "flipped" gradient also does not use green or "positive" colors when referring to historically white, high opportunity areas. Instead, darker colors on the Index represent areas with more opportunity. Meanwhile, lighter colors call out the need for more investment and opportunity. In other words, the 34 indicators add more and more data layers of opportunity so the color will become darker to represent all the opportunities in an area. Low opportunity areas have fewer opportunities layered on top of each other, so the color is lighter.

What are examples of how the Equity Index has been used?

The Equity Index has been used to 

  • Incentivize the building of affordable housing in high opportunity areas and incentivizing development in moderate and low opportunity areas by limiting the use of a tax exemption which would not require affordable housing to be built in high opportunity areas.  

  • Prioritize the installation and placement of streetlights based on equity score combined with crime data, sidewalk information, and current lighting conditions 

  • As an additional scoring component used to assess where and whom to award grants 

  • As a factor in decision-making to increase historical preservation projects across the City

  • Inform community engagement efforts by learning more about neighborhoods and communities for example: transit access score, households without internet and household vehicle access to learn how to best accommodate community for event. 

  • To increase language access and understand demographic information. For example, Tacoma Waste Management used the Equity Index to learn more about communities where they saw the most contaminated recycling. They learned that those areas have a high foreign population and high number of households who speak limited English. They launched a pilot project to translate information and materials in languages that matched the community and community engagement efforts that were culturally relevant which resulted in a significant drop in recycling contamination. 

What is the purpose of the Equity Index?

The Equity Index allows us to identify disparities in outcomes faced by those most likely to experience inequity and track them over time; guide decisions about the allocation of resources and policy development; increase transparency and accountability; and give communities tools to share in successes and advocate for change.


The inequitable opportunities available to Tacoma residents didn’t happen overnight, nor did they naturally occur. Decades of systems, policies, and practices shaped the city we see today, and they prevent us from meeting the full potential of our community laid out in Tacoma 2025.


The Equity Index helps provide the data to inform decisions and prioritize things like new streetlight installations, COVID relief funds, resource distribution, grant allocations, budgeting, policy development, etc. It helps support our planning, outreach, and engagement. It helps with our service delivery as we identify service impacts, service gaps, propose new programs, and develop racial equity action plans.  

How did you pick the indicators?

The 34 indicators for each of the five determinant categories of the index (Accessibility, Economy, Education, Livability, and Environmental Health) were meticulously and collaboratively chosen.


To create the calculations behind Tacoma Equity Index, we collaborated with the Kirwan Institute to select an array of community indicators of well-being, each of which has been shown in the social sciences literature to influence one's ability to succeed in life. The data for these indicators were collected at or aggregated to the Census Block Group level and rolled up to the overall Equity Index into a single measure based on several factors that can be compared across the city.


Not every indicator will directly be associated with department or service but it gives guidance on how to rethink decision-making using an equity lens by visualizing patterns that can be addressed by policy change and investments.  

How is race and racial equity included in the map? Why is race not an indicator?

The Equity Index includes data for race and ethnicity, foreign population, languages spoken, and top countries of immigration. It also has a map option which visually highlights where people of color live. This helps us to identify disparities in outcomes by those most likely to experience inequity and track over time. This data also helps inform community engagement and language access work.

The purpose of the Equity Index is to look for ways to add opportunities to communities that address disparities by area and race. We don’t include race as an indicator because race is not the cause of low opportunity, racism especially systemic racism, like redlining, racist covenants, and racist policies have intentionally excluded people of color from opportunity. Racism is real and the data shows us that areas with higher opportunity have fewer residents of color and more white people than areas of low opportunity which have more residents of color and fewer white people. That's why we have demographic information included on our Equity Index but it is not calculated in the equity score.    

What if the data I have is already represented in the Equity Index? For example, tree canopy is already utilized in the index, how do I decide where to plant trees?

When considering how the Equity Index impacts your analysis it is important to consider how the many indicators come together to create patterns of higher and lower opportunity, and how no one indicator can shift the map without change in the others. In cases like this, your team can use an overlay area of tree canopy and the Equity Index, and see where trees have been planted, compared to areas that are still considered low opportunity. Targeting low opportunity areas is not the only factor in directing resources, you also have to consider where there are already trees planted or good tree coverage. It is only one piece of the story you are telling when prioritizing new tree plantings. 

What are the limitations of the Equity Index?

Part of the value of building an opportunity index is identifying the most accurate sources of data available. This can be a tedious process but creating an opportunity index with the most accurate information at the most detailed geographic level will ensure confidence in the mapping products. However, another essential part of this process is recognizing the available dataset's limitations and moving forward. Perfect data rarely exists; though we care about understanding margins of error, confidence intervals, and collection methodologies, recognizing and accepting data shortcomings is part of the process.

Once the maps reveal high and low opportunity areas, we caution against a shallow analysis on the data and what the maps show when thinking through policy, investment, or program implications. For example, areas that show up as high opportunities should not be regarded as not needing any investment, as a deeper dive for example may show they have great natural amenities but lack employment opportunities. Relying solely on the quantitative-based data used in the maps is not enough to make investment decisions. It is dependent on us to dive deeper into this data and tell a compelling story as to why a policy and/or program is the right one to address inequities in that area of Tacoma.


How do you compare data over time?

With each update to the Equity Index, you will be able to navigate a comparison map to switch between the different maps so that you can see how the distribution of opportunity has changed over time. The 2018-2020 Equity Index Comparison Tool is now live.