Measuring the Prevalence of Form-Based Codes

By Paul Knight on November 2, 2012 — 3 mins read

Hazel Borys and Emily Talen just released their Codes Study for November. This study tabulates the use of form-based codes (FBC) across the country in order to see where they are happening. How do the US states rank? And what is the best way to measure the influence of FBCs? Let’s see…

Using the data from this study here is a list ranking US states simply by their number of FBCs:

  1. Florida 55
  2. California 44
  3. Texas 37
  4. Virginia 22
  5. Georgia 20
  6. South Carolina 19
  7. Mississippi 17
  8. North Carolina 17
  9. Louisiana 13
  10. Michigan 13
  11. Alabama 12
  12. Tennessee 10
  13. Colorado 9
  14. Arizona 9
  15. Massachusetts 8
  16. Pennsylvania 8
  17. New York 8
  18. Maryland 6
  19. Missouri 6
  20. Vermont 5
  21. New Hampshire 5
  22. Washington 5
  23. Kansas 4
  24. Connecticut 4
  25. Kentucky 4
  26. Ohio 4
  27. Maine 3
  28. Nebraska 3
  29. New Mexico 3
  30. Utah 3
  31. Arkansas 3
  32. Oregon 3
  33. Wisconsin 3
  34. New Jersey 3
  35. Iowa 2
  36. Rhode Island 2
  37. Hawaii 2
  38. Idaho 2
  39. Nevada 2
  40. Minnesota 2
  41. Indiana 2
  42. Illinois 2
  43. Wyoming 1
  44. Delaware 1
  45. Montana 1
  46. West Virginia 1
  47. Oklahoma 1
  48. Alaska 0
  49. North Dakota 0
  50. South Dakota 0

By this measure, Florida, California, and Texas are the top three FBC-producing states. However, tabulating the data in this way ignores the population variable. While the total number of FBCs in Florida, California, and Texas are high, their populations relative to other states are high as well. This unfairly inflates their ranking within the list. In order to gain a truer representation of the impact of FBCs within each state, population needs to be taken into account.

The Codes Study does include a tabulation of population, but some of the data is missing. Not wanting to spend a whole lot of time on this I decided to just apply the number of codes within each state to the total population in that state. Thus I calculated the number of form-based codes per 1,000,000 inhabitants. I know this is inherently flawed because it gives each code equal weight when in fact some codes will have more or less regulatory reach than others, but it at least allows us to see how population might begin to affect our reading of where FBC’s are happening. This starts to show the actual regulatory prevalence of FBCs within each state.

Drastic changes in the rankings occur:

  1. Vermont 7.99
  2. Mississippi 5.73
  3. South Carolina 4.11
  4. New Hampshire 3.80
  5. Florida 2.93
  6. Louisiana 2.87
  7. Virginia 2.75
  8. Alabama 2.51
  9. Maine 2.26
  10. Georgia 2.06
  11. Rhode Island 1.90
  12. Colorado 1.79
  13. North Carolina 1.78
  14. Wyoming 1.77
  15. Nebraska 1.64
  16. Tennessee 1.58
  17. Texas 1.47
  18. Hawaii 1.47
  19. New Mexico 1.46
  20. Arizona 1.41
  21. Kansas 1.40
  22. Michigan 1.32
  23. Idaho 1.28
  24. Massachusetts 1.22
  25. California 1.18
  26. Connecticut 1.12
  27. Delaware 1.11
  28. Utah 1.09
  29. Maryland 1.04
  30. Arkansas 1.03
  31. Montana 1.01
  32. Missouri 1.00
  33. Kentucky 0.92
  34. Oregon 0.78
  35. Washington 0.74
  36. Nevada 0.74
  37. Iowa 0.66
  38. Pennsylvania 0.63
  39. West Virginia 0.54
  40. Wisconsin 0.53
  41. New York 0.41
  42. Minnesota 0.38
  43. Ohio 0.35
  44. New Jersey 0.34
  45. Indiana 0.31
  46. Oklahoma 0.27
  47. Illinois 0.16
  48. Alaska 0.00
  49. North Dakota 0.00
  50. South Dakota 0.00

While Vermont only has a total of five FBCs (which is 32% below the US average across states), the prevalence of Vermont’s FBCs relative to population is the highest in the country (7.99 FBCs per million people). In other words, a higher percentage of Vermont’s population is under the regulatory structure of FBCs than any other state. Furthermore, on this list Florida loses its 1st place spot and falls to 5th place, California drops to 25th place, and Texas to 17th place.

Here is a screenshot of my Google spreadsheet showing each ranking as a percentage above or below the US average (click image for full size):

By this you can see that even though California is 2nd in terms of total number of FBCs (with 44), it is actually 3% below average relative to all other states in terms of FBCs per million. When the popular vote is the thing that counts, California may not be as progressive as we think.

Again, I realize the calculations being made here are flawed and that a more refined study needs to take place. Perhaps Vermont’s five codes do not have a great reach in terms of population and thus the state should lose its 1st place spot? Perhaps Miami 21 would throw Florida back into the number one spot? The next step in this population-based analysis is to accurately quantify how many people are affected by each code (which the Code Study has essentially already done) and then use that data to re-rank the list.

Posted in: Featured, Urbanism

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  • Paul, I just want to thank you for doing this. It’s grist to the mill. I’ve been trying to keep track in an ad hoc fashion of what’s going on around the country, in order to be able to beat planning officials (in denial) over the head with the info. As a developer in Oklahoma I’m partly responsible for its single FBC, in Tulsa, which took a ridiculous number of years to achieve – and its expansion continues to meet fierce opposition from the local troglodytes. Keep up the good work.