Turning Lincoln Vital Signs Data into Action

Alec Gorynski, President, Lincoln Community Foundation
Originally published in the Lincoln Journal Star, September 21, 2022

Strong communities use data to make collective changes that ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed and thrive. Since 2014, Lincoln’s data report – Lincoln Vital Signs – informs Lincoln residents about trends affecting our city and invites collaboration across our all sectors of our community to address its findings.

In 2014, a group of public and private organizations commissioned the first Lincoln Vital Signs report to educate ourselves about the socio-economic conditions of our community and inform funding decisions. Now in its fifth iteration, the recently published 2022 Lincoln Vital Signs report provides us with a shared understanding of our community strengths, persistent concerns, and overall population shifts.

This information is critically important as our community leaders continue to work toward our shared economic and social prosperity. Lincoln Vital Signs is actively informing organizations such as Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Lincoln Community Foundation, and many other agencies as we work on the long-term needs and goals of our community.

The data from Lincoln Vital Signs inspires and shapes giving strategies of both individual donors and institutional foundations and is helping nonprofit organizations orient their programs toward clearly articulated needs. Lincoln Vital Signs also substantiates our Proser Lincoln community agenda, which continues facilitate collaborative efforts to address early childhood, affordable housing, strong neighborhoods, and an innovative workforce.

Overall, the recent report tells us that Lincoln continues to flourish in many ways. We have a high-quality workforce with low unemployment. Lincoln is a safe place to live, as evidenced by low property and violent crime rates compared to cities of a similar size.

We continue to become a more diverse community, with persons of color now making up 21% of our population. Poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity are all lower since the original Vital Signs report in 2014; and we saw a reduction in the number of census tracts experiencing extreme poverty.

Although many trends are moving in a positive direction, there are still some areas for concern. Per capita income adjusted for cost of living continues to trail the nation’s average, and this gap is increasing. The cost of early childhood education continues to rise, an issue of critical concern for working families.

Lincoln’s unemployment rate for racially minority populations is higher than Lincoln’s total unemployment and the poverty rate among black residents is more than double the rate for white residents.

General population shifts will shape future demand for services and programs. People moving into Lincoln have recently been driving our overall population growth, with half of those moving here being young adults 18 to 24 years of age. However, Lincoln’s overall population is aging, as our 65+ population has grown more than four times faster than any other age group in the past decade.

Local funders and institutions, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, have continued to invest in and produce Vital Signs to ensure our community operates under a comprehensive and consistent set of metrics. I am grateful to our peer funders and the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center for making the Lincoln Vital Signs report possible.

For our community to become all we know it can be, we need to work together to do what we can to address the Lincoln Vital Signs findings. That means fewer people living in poverty. It means access to affordable housing and high-quality childcare and early education. It means a strong workforce and strong neighborhoods. It means together – we thrive.’

To view the full 2022 Lincoln Vital Signs Report, visit www.LincolnVitalSigns.org.