Great Lakes Cities Vulnerability Assessment Tool

Methods and Definitions (PDF)
Download data as a GIS shapefile for Ann Arbor, Bloomington, Cleveland, Dearborn, Evanston, or Indianapolis.

Purpose: Great Lakes Vulnerability Assessment Tool

The Great Lakes Vulnerability Assessment Tool is designed to help city staff, residents, and others identify neighborhoods that meet socioeconomic vulnerability criteria.

Cities in the Great Lakes are experiencing impacts from extreme heat, precipitation and storms. Vulnerability to these climate change impacts varies within cities based on factors such as age, race, and income. Because some neighborhoods are more vulnerable than others, decision-makers need processes and tools that enable them to set priorities and direct resources to the most at-risk neighborhoods and residents.

The Great Lakes Vulnerability Assessment tool was developed in collaboration with six Great Lakes cities (Ann Arbor, MI; Bloomington, IN; Cleveland, OH; Dearborn, MI; Evanston, IL; and Indianapolis, IN) to enable decision-makers to “see” neighborhood-level information about socioeconomic stressors associated with vulnerability to climate change.

The tool provides information for each census tract within the six cities using variables about at-risk populations from the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest release of the American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates, which represent the socioeconomic conditions during a five-year rolling survey period.


In 2017, a Urban Sustainability Directors Network Innovation Fund grant enabled cities from the Great Lakes region to collaboratively develop a template and other resources to better inform and support their vulnerability assessments. That project helped Great Lakes cities better use climate and equity-related information and integrate it into city processes including natural hazards planning and capital project prioritization.

As part of that effort, the Great Lakes Vulnerability Assessment tool was developed to assist participating cities to visualize neighborhood-level socioeconomic data about high-risk populations.

Additional Resources

Read more about our methods and tips for using the tool in our Methods and Definitions document; or use our Populations at Risk tool to generate reports with socioeconomic information about populations more likely to experience adverse social, health, or economic outcomes due to their race, age, gender, poverty status, or other factors.

Also see our interactive map, Socioeconomics and Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region, which shows how the social and economic characteristics of the Great Lakes Region at the county level are impacted by regionally specific changes in climate. It was developed in partnership with the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities at the University of Michigan.

Patricia Hernandez       406.599.7425

Patty Hernandez is co-founder and Executive Director of Headwaters Economics. Patty has 18 years of experience in researching economic development, building partnerships, and developing technology solutions to help communities plan and adapt to a changing world.