Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

The Jacksonville Community Council (JCCI) understands indicators and community change, with more than 25 years of producing the annual Quality of Life Progress Report for Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida region, and two decades of helping other communities develop their own sustainable indicators projects. JCCI consultants give you the information you need to measure progress, identify priorities for action, and assess results.

I'd like to talk with you personally about how we can help. E-mail me at
ben@jcci.org, call (904) 396-3052, or visit CommunityWorks for more information. From San Antonio to Siberia, we're ready and willing to assist.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Child Poverty Indicators: What Do We Know?

We've been talking about measuring poverty here, here, and here. Measuring child poverty is even more difficult.

Some researchers have tried to discover better child poverty indicators through asking children for their point of view. This wasn't as helpful as they thought it might be -- these children in England ranked the lack of cell phones the key indicator of child poverty. (They may be right in some cultures -- how about the numbers of five-to-nine year olds with cell phones in Japan?)

In the United States, trying to understand what we know about child poverty indicators is hard work. Douglas Besharov's Poverty Update from September 27, 2007, is helpful in explaining what the numbers we use really mean, and why they aren't sufficient. His efforts to get behind the numbers yielded some interesting results, particularly on the racial/ethnic shifts of women employed in skilled blue-collar employment and the impact on racial disparities in child poverty.

I hadn't realized that Connecticut has mandated reducing child poverty by 50 percent by 2014, which is an interesting idea -- can you legislate away poverty? And Minnesota has launched a commission to end poverty by 2020 -- what comes out of these efforts may be incredibly useful for community work, depending on what they accomplish. Just declaring war on poverty didn't make it all go away.

Earlier this year, the United Nations adopted a new definition of child poverty, one that went beyond a family income definition. UNICEF added some thoughts that might be useful in exploring community indicators of child poverty:

Children’s well-being relies in large part on the availability and quality of basic services and an environment for play and leisure. Access to these does not always depend on family income but on the priorities and investments of the state. Lastly, income poverty assumes that all family members have an equal share of the family’s income, which is often not the case, particularly for girls. ... If poverty is understood as more than just income poverty, then responses need to address the broader picture of children’s experience of poverty.

How do you measure child poverty? Any suggestions for other communities?

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