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To compile our ranking of 68 Air Force bases, we collected and analyzed hundreds of pieces of information.
Air Force Times evaluated statistics in a dozen categories: school quality, cost of living, housing costs, commissary size, base exchange size, size of on-base health care facilities, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes. We then assigned each category a score on a 10-point scale.
■ To come up with a school quality score, we used the website GreatSchools.com, a respected resource for ranking and comparing schools used by real estate agents and real estate websites such as Zillow and Realtor.com. GreatSchools evaluates schools on a 10-point scale based on a combination of their standardized test scores, whether students are improving from year to year, and college readiness, defined as how well students take and score on SAT and ACT tests, and their graduation rates. We searched for all rated schools within a 10-mile radius of each base and averaged their scores to come up with an overall school score.
■ We pulled information on cost of living, housing, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes from the website Sperling’s Best Places, which compiles demographic and other data on communities around the country. We used formulas to convert the raw data from each category into a 10-point scale. BestPlaces.net’s crime statistics had low numbers for low crime rates and high numbers for high crime rates. We converted the statistics so lower crime rates would result in higher scores for bases.
■ Sperling’s Best Places also provided data it collected on the size and type of on-base commissaries, exchanges and health care facilities, and rankings on a 10-point scale.
Of course, not all categories are equally important to service members. We’d wager school quality, for example, is a greater concern than the sales tax rate. So we weighted each category. Scores for the most important categories — schools, cost of living, housing and commissaries — were tripled. The next most important categories — crime, health care facilities, commute times and exchanges — were doubled in value. And the last four categories — pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes — got no additional weighting.
Finally, we added up the scores and stacked the bases.
Do you think we nailed our rankings of the Air Force’s bases? Or were we way off the mark? Visit us online at AirForceTimes.com and sound off! We’ll include the best responses in an upcoming issue.