Thriving Places Index 2019 Methodology

Overall framework

The core Thriving Places Index (TPI) is a set of indicators that can be used to measure how well each local authority is creating the local conditions for people to flourish, in a sustainable way that benefits everyone equally.

The indicator set is structured as three ‘headline’ elements: Local Conditions, Sustainability and Equality. Within these headline elements, we further segment indicators into domains and sub-domains. This helps to create a clear narrative about wellbeing and also enables users of the TPI to see the patterns of strengths and weaknesses more easily.

The thriving Places Index comprises three data sets - two in England and one in Wales. The headline elements, domains and sub-domains remain the same, but the indicators vary according to availability of the data which varies between home countries and also between local authority levels within the same country:


Upper tier (150 councils): 62 indicators
Second tier (201 councils): 44 indicators


Single tier (22 councils): 54 indicators

The TPI is made up of data for individual indicators, but we present it in a scorecard format by applying a conversion calculation which produces score between 0-10. Each of the 27 sub-domains receives a score, which is averaged to create a domain score and also a headline score for each of the headline elements.

The number of indicators that make up the TPI reflects the fact that we wanted to strike a balance between creating an index that is as comprehensive as possible, without it being too difficult to make sense of and to use.

The TPI measures the drivers of wellbeing, rather than wellbeing itself. Subjective wellbeing data is available at local authority level and is included in our datasets to complement the TPI, as we expect TPI scores to correlate with and have an impact upon subjective wellbeing.

At the same time, it does not measure the inputs that local authorities invest into achieving the drivers of wellbeing. So, for example, the TPI includes an indicator which shows the percentage of adults doing regular physical activity, but it does not include an indicator which shows the amount local authorities spend on physical activity programmes.

The TPI provides data at both upper tier and second tier local authority levels. Not all the data and indicators available at upper tier level are available at second tier level (e.g. second tier level and Super Output Areas). This gives us a greater choice of indicators, for example it allows us to take advantage of national survey data available at local authority level, such as data from the Labour Force Survey.

Being able to include such survey data in the Thriving Places Index distinguishes it from indices like the IMD by including:

Selecting indicators

We started our development of the 2019 TPI with the 2018 version as a starting point.

For each 2018 indicator, we:

We also searched for data that could be used to add indicators that are entirely new to the Thriving Places Index. When scrutinising an indicator for inclusion we use the following criteria:

  1. Availability. First and foremost, the Thriving Places Index is something that can be used. As such, we have drawn on data that is already available, rather than creating a wishlist of ideal indicators. All the indicators included are available for all (or almost all) English local authorities. Of course, this rules out any data that local authorities choose to collect themselves – for example through resident surveys. Nevertheless, the TPI is intended to be forward-looking, and the selection of domains and sub-domains is intended to signal the direction where more data collection is needed when currently available data is far from ideal. For example, the only indicator on social isolation at present refers only to those who are in social care, rather than the population as a whole. In contrast, in Wales, we have been able to include an indicator of loneliness for the population as a whole – we hope that such an indicator will become available in England in the future.
  2. Related to subjective wellbeing. The TPI measures the drivers of wellbeing. One key requirement for indicators was that they measure, or are a proxy for something which is known to influence subjective wellbeing.
  3. Validity. We only include indicators that are robust. For example, when we use survey data we only use surveys with sample sizes large enough to provide estimates at the local authority level. Almost all indicators come from pre-existing national data sets such as Office for National Statistics, government departments, Public Health England, Index of Multiple Deprivation and so on.
  4. Regularly updated. The Thriving Places Index is updated annually. For that to happen , the constituent indicators need to be updated regularly - ie annually or bi-annually - so as to be current and relevant. This is not the case for all indicators – for example a small number are based on census data which is only updated every 10 years.
  5. Amenable to local action. As noted, the Thriving Places Index is intended to be used by local authorities and their partners to improve local wellbeing. As such, the indicators included reflect things that can be influenced by local action.

The full indicator set for the 2019 Thriving Places Index was evaluated to check that it reflects the overall place-based conditions for people to thrive / for wellbeing, and that it strikes a balance between using the best data available and keeping it comparable to the 2018 Thriving Places Index.

All of these steps were carried out with the aim of developing the 2019 Thriving Places Index to create a comprehensive picture of creating the conditions for people to thrive. View our 2019 upper tier indicator list here.

Single indicator sub-domains:

Headline element



Local Conditions

Place and environment

Local Environment





Mental and physical health

Healthy & risky behaviours

Overall health status

Mortality and life expectancy

Mental health

Education and Learning

Adult education

Children's education

Work and local economy



Basic needs

Local business*

People and community



Community cohesion


CO2 emissions*

Household recycling*

Energy consumption per capita*


Land use*


Health Inequality*

Income Inequality - Overall*

Income Inequality - Gender*

Employment inequality*

Social mobility*

Wellbeing inequality

Gathering the indicator data

Raw values from sources

For each indicator, we downloaded the relevant data from the online source. Common sources include the Office for National Statistics and Public Health England’s Fingertips website.

Raw TPI values

In many cases, the data downloaded from the source provided the exact values that go into our raw dataset.

In some cases, we performed some calculations to derive the values that form our raw dataset. The types of calculations carried out were:

Standardising the raw values

After gathering data for all indicators, we standardised the raw values by transforming them to z-scores using the following formula, so that all indicator values had a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1:

( raw value - national mean ) / national standard deviation

Where necessary indicators were reversed so that all positive z-scores are better than average.

Calculating z-scores allow us to compare a local authority’s performance on two indicators even if they are measured on different scales. If a local authority scores -1.0 on one indicator, and -2.0 on another, this means that it is 1 standard deviation below the English mean for the former, but 2 standard deviations below the mean for the latter – indicating that the second indicator may be more of a priority for the local authority.

Note that, in future years, to allow better comparison over time, it will be possible to calculate ‘pseudo z-scores’ where the data for new years is benchmarked against the mean and standard deviation from a prior iteration of the TPI. That means that while for this year and last year, the average z-score for any indicator is by definition 0, in future years, the average could rise or fall.

Capping the standardised values

To avoid extreme values affecting the overall spread of scores on the scorecards, we then capped the z-scores at -5 and +5, so that z-scores below -5 become -5, and scores above 5 become 5.

Calculating sub-domain, domain and headline element scores (creating the scorecards)




As well as calculating 0-10 scores, we also use a colour scheme for presenting scores:



< 3.5


3.5 - 4.5


4.5 - 5.5


5.5 - 6.5


> 6.5


The thresholds were chosen to ensure a reasonable spread across the colours. So for example, 15% of sub-domain scores are in the bottom category, 21% in the second category, 29% in the third category, and so on.

Quality assurance

Missing Data

There are few missing data points in the TPI dataset as complete data is one of our criteria for selecting indicators. However, occasionally an indicator has a small number of missing data points. As the missing data points are few and far between we do not employ any data imputation techniques.

Missing data is a marginally bigger issue for districts. As districts are smaller, data is more likely to be suppressed. The indicator with the most missing data points is Household Recycling for districts; data is missing for 10 of 201 districts (4.98%).

If missing data becomes a bigger issue in future iterations of the TPI, we will consider imputation. However we want the data to be as realistic as possible so this would be a last resort.

For further information on the indicator calculations see the indicator calculations PDF, and for further information on the new and adapted indicators for 2019 see the list of new and adapted indicators.