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.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rural v. Urban Quality of Life Measures in Argentina

Last month we talked about rural and urban issues in measuring the quality of life. As mentioned in the previous post, core issues are often different.

I just ran across an interesting article titled "Ampliando el estudio de la calidad de vida hacia el espacio rural. El caso del Partido de General Pueyrredon, Argentina" (Extending the study of the quality of life to the rural space. The case of the Municipality of General Pueyrredon, Argentina.)

It helps to know Spanish for this article. From the abstract:

Concientes de la escasez de información referida a la calidad de vida en los asentamientos rurales, el propósito de esta investigación es impulsar la transferencia de la experiencia existente en el campo de los asentamientos urbanos hacia el hábitat rural.

En tanto, se propone un ejercicio de comparación entre Indicadores de Calidad de Vida para el espacio urbano y el espacio rural, procurando con esto poner en discusión la necesidad de ampliar los estudios hacia las áreas rurales en un contexto reconocido como de refuncionalización del espacio rural.

El recorte espacial considerado en el presente artículo corresponde al espacio rural del partido de General Pueyrredon localizado en la zona sudeste de la provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Intentando lograr esto el artículo se centra en resultados preliminares obtenidos mediante el uso de fuentes estadísticas oficiales provistas por el INDEC (fracciones y radios censales) y la elaboración de índices de calidad de vida que combinan las dimensiones educación, salud, vivienda y ambiente. Dichos índices se han conformado en técnicas certeras para el reconocimiento de los contrastes territoriales. En la representación de dichos contrastes ha sido de suma utilidad el empleo de sistemas de información geográfica, que mediante capas de información dan claridad a la interpretación de los procesos socioterritoriales.


Translated:

Knowing the shortage of information linked to the rural quality of life the intention of this investigation is to impel the transference of the existing experience in the urban field to the rural habitat. Consequently a comparison is proposed between the urban Quality of life indicator and the rural space trying to encourage the discussion of the need to extend the study towards the rural areas in a context of resignificance of the rural space.

The area of study in the present article corresponds to the rural space of the Municipality of General Pueyrredon located in the Southeastern zone of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The paper focuses on preliminary results obtained by the official statistical organization called INDEC (census tracks) and the elaboration of a quality of life index that combines four dimensions: education, health, housing and environment. This index has been developed using accurate techniques for the recognition of territorial contrasts. The use of a geographical information system - which combines different layers of information - has been of supreme utility since it maps the contrasts and eases the interpretation of the social and territorial processes.

What I liked about the article was the careful construction of different indices to measure the quality of life for the urban and rural communities, and then mapping the results to show how the targeted index could tell you more about the population needs of the community. It drives home clearly the need to develop a community indicators system that reflects the actual lived experience of the people being measured.

The full article, in PDF format, is available here.

(As a side note, if you're interested in helping provide a more global perspective to the discussion of community indicators and would like to be a contributing blogger to this site in the language of your choice, please let me know. There's too much happening around the world now, and even more going to be happening after the Istanbul Declaration, to try to keep up with my limited language skills.)

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Measuring Community Well-Being

On the rethos.com blog, Chris Advansun makes an interesting observation about community well-being based on his living experiences in Harlem and Toronto.

After sharing his descriptions of both places, he concludes with the following:

The United Nations’ Human Development Index, widely used to compare and contrast standards of living between countries across the globe, integrates literacy, life expectancy, education and gross domestic product (GDP) into its formula. This is a good start, but still fails to measure certain aspects of well-being, such as those concluded in the Harlem vs. suburbs exercise. How close do citizens feel to their neighbors, how much use do they make of their neighborhood and how interwoven is their community?

Perhaps reducing well-being to one universal formula is impossible, because different populations would disagree with the very indicators upon which the formula is based. Harlem would perhaps value community and open block parties more than the suburbs, which would place privacy and personal security at a higher importance. But at the very least, we must use more diverse indicators to measure and understand well-being. The suburbs may enjoy higher rates of employment, but if they come second to the inner-city on community indicators, who’s better off?


You may want to take a look at what they're trying to build at rethos.com. The founders are trying to create an online social network "to be the platform for individuals, non-profit organizations and socially responsible companies to rethink their role in the world, the urgency of issues facing our planet, and the real ability we have to unite to affect change."

It's one of a number of new attempts to leverage the "Web 2.0" for social change. I'll try to pass along those I run across that seem to have intersection points with community indicators. Please share any others you find as well.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Hawai'i 2050

For those interested in sustainability and using indicators to promote sustainability, take a look at the Hawai'i 2050 website.

Hawai'i 2050 defines sustainability as the following:

Sustainability in Hawai‘i means achieving a quality of life that:

  • strikes a balance between economic prosperity, social and community well-being, and environmental stewardship.

  • meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

  • respects the culture, character, beauty and history of our state’s island communities.

The group is developing a vision for the state and some guiding principles. They are being informed by several interesting indicators documents and research, including the following:

  • Hawaii 2050 Issue Book (pdf) Commissioned by the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force, the Hawaii 2050 Issue Book provides fact-based research on key sustainability issues. The Issue Book contains the research and conclusions of a group of scholars at the University of Hawaii Center for Sustainability. A summary (pdf) of the Issue Book can also be downloaded.

  • UHERO Economic Information Service UHERO's Economic Information Service is a community-sponsored research program of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The EIS provides the Hawaii community with information on economic, demographic, and business trends in the State and the Asia-Pacific region. Under the service, UHERO provides a menu of forecast reports and varying levels of access to the UHERO EIS Online Database.The UHERO EIS Online Database houses up-to-date statistics on the State, county, and key external economies.

  • Environmental Indicators State Department of Health The Goals and Indicators program annually releases a report based on data collected by the Department of Health environmental programs. Environmental indicators are used to measure the quality of the environment and/or progress made toward protection of the environment.

  • Office of Environmental Quality Control Office of Environmental Quality ControlThe Environmental Report Card - includes environmental indicators, progress reports, grades, essays and agency goals

  • Quality of Life in Hawaii Report (2005) (pdf) Aloha United Way A report on the well-being of our state as reflected by key social, health, safety, educational, economic, and environmental measures. These carefully selected community indicators provide a way to monitor trends over time, both statewide and at a county level.

  • University of Hawaii Center on the Family A comprehensive collection of data and information on Hawaii’s families, children, and aging population, including Child and Family Indicators, School/Community Profiles, and Hawaii’s Aging.

  • Hawaii Kids Count University of Hawaii Center on the Family A database of information describing the status of children in Hawaii. Monitors Hawaii's progress regarding children and families by tracking key indicators over time.

  • Health Trends in Hawaii: A Profile of the Health Care System (2006) Hawaii Health Information Corporation A biennial publication providing Hawaii health care data including health care demographics, health status, the health marketplace, health resource availability and health resource utilization and also shows trends over time. Each edition features a special section, this one on children's health. Several new topics include managed care, alternative medicine, health care expenditures, the health care workforce and telemedicine.

  • State of Hawaii Data Book Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, State of HawaiiThe official summary of statistics on the social, economic, and political organization of the State of Hawaii.

  • Economic Data and Reports Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, State of Hawaii Comprehensive state and county data and reports on Hawaii’s economy, including visitor arrivals and expenditures, general fund tax revenue, economic forecasts and projections, and more.

It's a great example of using a broad range of indicators to understand a community and envision its future. Look for the Hawai‘i 2050 Sustainability Plan to be unveiled at the Hawai‘i 2050 Sustainability Summit on September 22, 2007. The summit theme is Nā Lei o Ka ‘Āina, or “The Lei of the Land.”

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Free Pocket Sustainability Indicators

Here's a press release from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in London.

From the press release:

Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2007

A free pocket-sized booklet published by Defra today provides an overview of the country’s progress in tackling key economic, social and environmental issues.

The 68 indicators it contains - covering a wide range of topics of everyday concern such as health, housing, jobs, crime, education, and our environment - all affect whether we can live more sustainably in the future. For the first time this edition includes some provisional measures of wellbeing which show how satisfied people are with their lives.

The press release also contains a summary of the statistical information in the booklet and some comparison pie charts.

Free copies of Sustainable development indicators in your pocket 2007 are available from:

Defra Publications
Admail 6000
London, SW1A 2XX
Telephone: 08459 556000
defra@cambertown.com
Quote product codes PB12683 (A6 size) or PB12683A (A4 size)

The publication and associated data will be also presented on the sustainable development website: http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Worldometers

I ran across an interesting website today, called Worldometers. The site provides a series of measures which it purports to update in real time (much in the same way sites like the National Debt Clock [get your own here] or the Census' Population Clock do.)

What's interesting is that the measures include a range of interesting information, including deaths caused by smoking, oil consumption, food production, lightning strikes, and a series of other indicators.

It struck me that this could me an interesting tool to use with community indicators, as we look at different data display techniques to tell more compelling stories with data. The numbers are, of course, projections based on current trendlines, but these projections could conceivably be used for a number of different community measures to point out the costs of inaction or the scale of the issue the community faces.

Has anyone had experience adapting these kinds of clocks to local indicators?

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Measuring Poverty, Part II

In an earlier post we discussed the National Center for Children in Poverty and its factsheet on Measuring Income and Poverty in the United States.

Another useful data resource for measuring poverty is The Poverty Site, which calls itself "The UK site for statistics on poverty and social exclusion." It contains 50 indicators associated with poverty in the United Kingdom, including income, employment, education, health, and crime, and has spearate reports for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and rural England.

The site also reports on the European Union (Laeken) indicators, which it explains are "a core set of poverty and social exclusion indicators which are regularly produced for every EU country on a comparable basis."

You may also be interested in the The World Bank's discussion of poverty indicators, including the Millennium Development Goals (data on the goals available here).

What are the key resources you turn to in order to measure poverty in your community?

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Friday, July 27, 2007

PPMRN Call for Proposals

From the Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Network:

Dear Members of the Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Network:

We invite proposals for the First Annual Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Network Conference. Proposals may include presentations, cases, workshops, projects, survey data, etc.

The Conference will be held on November 2-3 at The School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University, Campus at Newark. In particular, we encourage proposals that emphasize innovative approaches to both public performance measurement and reporting.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
o Best Practices: Performance Measurement in Practice
o Strategic Planning and Performance Measurement
o Performance-based Budgeting
o Citizen-based Performance Measurement
o Benchmarking: Comparative Performance Measurement
o Technology and Performance Measurement
o Performance Measurement Reporting: Communicating Results
o Related Topics


Proposals should not exceed 250 words and should be sent to Dr. James Melitski as soon as possible, but no later than September 15th, at james.melitski@marist.edu

Read more ...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Real Time Rome

Here's a great post over at O'Reilly Radar on using cell phones to track real-time traffic movement in Rome.

More and more opportunities to use non-traditional data sources to map and analyze information are coming. I share this one because of one of the comments.

In the article, Brady Forrest asks, "Would you put up with your location being (formally) tracked in exchange for this service?"

A respondent replies, "Wrong question. The correct question is: 'How can we anonomyse the data so that we can obtain the advantages of this service without compromising privacy?'"

Are we ready to assume (with this respondent) that all that can be used for data, will be used for data, and put our efforts into assuring sufficient anonymity/privacy protection for all?

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Istanbul Declaration

At the OECD World Forum last month, delegates made a commitment to measure and foster the progress of societies "in all dimensions" in what is now being referred to as the Istanbul Declaration. Among the components discussed is the opportunity to create a Web 2.0/wiki model interative website to share, display, and discuss data and make information accessible to people all over the world. Read the Istanbul Declaration here, and the statements of support for the Declaration as well.

Michael Arrington, of TechCrunch, was one of the delegates to the forum. Read his article about the forum here (links to pictures provided!) Jesse Robbins (another presenter) shares his reactions to the conference, along with a video of Hans Rosling unveiling the beauty of statistics.

Here's Enrico Giovannini's closing talk from the OECD World Forum, speaking about the Istanbul Declaration and what it will mean.

And here's the OECD 2007 World Forum page with key presentations, information, press releases, and much more to continue to the conversations from Istanbul.

This is exciting stuff.

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Defeating Data Apathy

Here's a must-read on why data matter.

http://blog.swivel.com/weblog/2007/07/breaking-the-vi.html

From the article:

It may not be obvious to everyone, but there exists an important problem of data apathy. No one cares about data. And by no one, we mean in the democratic sense.

We hear a lot about the need to get
data to the people, and we agree of course. But simply disseminating numbers doesn't make people care.

Good data should affect policy - but politicians don't care because they know their voters don't care. People who vote don't care because data is not engaging, not to mention accessible, usable, and relevant to their lives. ...

Why is the important?

Because if people don't care about data, politicians don't care. Spin and opinion become the new currency - which leads to a cascade of misinformation where discerning fact from fiction is practically impossible. And, yes, the internet is only compounding this problem.

If data doesn't establish itself in new forms of communication in a serious way, the younger generations won't have the tools they need to become well-informed and active citizens.


Read the whole article here.

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Telling Stories with Data (and Music!)

I ran across something on Swivel's blog I thought I would share. Sara McLachlan produced a music video using data to demonstrate where the money went that didn't go into the $15 production cost.

I thought folks might be interested in it. Let me know what you think.

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South Florida Indicators Website

Here's an interesting resource for community indicators fans. The Florida Atlantic University Center for Urban & Environmental Solutions (you may have met Jim Murley or Lenore Alpert at a Community Indicators Consortium conference) hosts SOFLO.org, "Your Resource for South Florida Indicators."

The site is remarkably easy to navigate, with a video, indicators reports, hot topics, news, events, related research reports, and indicators data available on the front page. It's a different look and feel than GIS-based sites, and does a pretty good job of showing how indicators reports are part of the larger picture of understanding the region.

While you're at the site, be sure to check out Charting the Course and their use of indicators to examine future scenarios for the region.

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Using the Web to Make Change

Community indicators are primarily about community improvement, right? We measure conditions in the community in order to inspire action and measure progress toward reaching a desired community vision or goal. Otherwise, this would just be an interesting exercise in data retrieval and display (not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Allison Fine, who wrote Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, gives us a brief summary of how to use the Web to connect people and move ideas forward. (I like that one of the reviewers of her book recommends it as a companion volume to Made to Stick).

In her article, Using Tech to Connect: Social Media Tools for Social Change, Fine lays out a series of tips for using the internet to connect people and ideas and help them become effective in community improvement efforts. She also provides examples of model websites to show what she's talking about. It's worth a read.

In a related article, Britt Bravo provides tips for how to use blogs to make change, and provides a sample list of blogs for consideration. (This blog is not on the list.)

Let me know what other resources you find useful to use technology to promote social change, especially those who use community indicators as ignition points.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Australian Reaction to the OECD Forum

The full article is linked on the news feed, but because it will likely rotate off soon, I thought I'd share an interesting excerpt from Geoffrey Woolcock's article titled "It's the society, stupid!"

Woolcock pulls together data from a number of interesting sources, including children's perceptions of the future and social equity research, to question the reliance on economic indicators as a sole (or even primary) measure of the happiness or well-being of a country. He then ties in his reaction to the OECD World Forum's efforts to examine indicators of progress. What he says echoes what those of us in the community indicators field have been saying for years. I just like the way he says it:

Given that ultimately happiness is an entirely subjective phenomenon, perhaps true understanding of individual happiness is mistaking the means for the ends. Various social movements, most prominently the environmentalists, have long questioned untrammeled growth and continue to provoke us to engage instead in a much broader debate about how whole societies define and measure progress, beyond the baseline index of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

These questioners are starting to come from more diverse places, whether it be a few private sector corporations increasingly influenced by the social aspects of triple-bottom line accounting or the Australian Bureau of Statistics whose Mapping Australia’s Progress is lauded internationally for its efforts to collate an impressive array of non-economic measures such as volunteering and perceptions of trust and safety.

But the rub for governments in publicly presenting such indicators is in the inclusion of some of the more confronting aspects of progress, including measures of citizenship, human rights and democracy. Incorporating these aspects into 100 indicators of well-being across 18 of the 30 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the economists Rod Tiffen and Ross Gittens in their 2004 book How Australia Compares, ranked Australia a lowly 15th.

These broader ambitions in measuring wellbeing were the focus of a major OECD conference held last month,
Measuring the Progress of Societies, challenging the world’s sharpest statistical minds to answer the key question: how can we measure how our societies are really doing?
The conference undoubtedly helped elevate the political importance of long-standing alternative measures to the GDP such as the Genuine Progress Index and the Global Peace Index, as well as the impressive work establishing community indicators of sustainable progress emerging in Australia.

There is much to be achieved but if such gatherings are to be effective, they will help elevate fundamental markers of progress like bridging the vast discrepancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ life expectancy to start competing alongside the earnest daily recital of the fortunes of the Nikkei, Dow Jones and All Ordinaries indices. And they might also do justice to the famous libertarian philosopher J.S.Mill’s thoughts dating back to the 1850s: “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.”

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ICMA Teleconference on Performance Measurement August 8

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) hosts the ICMA Center for Performance Measurement, which has some interesting resources available (although much of it is premium content available to members only.)

They're hosting a teleconference on August 8, 2007, to talk about performance measurement, and one of the speakers will be Jay Fountain (whom you may have met at one of the Community Indicators Consortium conferences where he's been helping with the conversation linking community indicators with government performance measures.)

I don't know about the requirements to join the teleconference, but thought I'd pass the information along.

August 8th: AGA TeleconferenceAGA, in conjunction with the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) and the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA), will host a teleconference on performance management and reporting. Guest speakers at AGA's August 8th teleconference will include Michael Matthes, assistant city manager, Des Moines, Iowa (and CPM participant) He will be joined by Jay Fountain, consultant to GASB and by Michael Lawson, director, ICMA Center for Performance Measurement. To learn more about this teleconference, please visit www.agacgfm.org/education/audioconferences/performance080807.aspx.

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National Indicators of Child Well-Being

Here's an update from Marcia Rubin that she sent to the NNIP listserve. (Now that I'm back from vacation, I'm trying to catch up in passing some of the information e-mailed to me in my absence.)

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:

Compared to national statistics for the previous year, there has been an increase in the percentage of children living with at least one working parent and the percentage of children living in households classified as food insecure has declined. High school students were more likely to have taken advanced academic courses and the percentage of young adults who completed high school has increased. The adolescent birth rate has dropped to a record low.

Increasing were: the percentage of children served by community water systems that did not meet all applicable standards for healthy drinking water, and the percentage of children living in physically inadequate or crowded housing or housing that cost more than 30 percent of household income. The percentage of low birthweight infants also increased, as did the percentage of births to unmarried women. The rate at which youth were perpetrators of serious violent crime increased slightly.

These findings are described in detail in "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2007", the U.S. government's annual report that monitors the well-being of the Nation's children and youth. (Note: I just got my copies in the mail -- it looks really sharp, and I highly encourage folks to take a look at this report.)

The report is a compendium of the most recently released federal statistics on the nation's children, issued by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. It presents a comprehensive look at critical areas of child well-being. These encompass family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.

"The increase in the percentage of children living with a working parent is welcome news," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. "Secure parental employment helps to reduce the psychological toll on families, brought on by parental unemployment and underemployment."

"This year also saw a rise in the percentage of children with low birthweight," Dr. Alexander said. Low birthweight infants are at increased risk of dying in the first year of life, as well at risk for serious disability. He added that a variety of research efforts were under way to prevent preterm birth, a major cause of low birthweight.

For the report's 10th anniversary, the Forum members revised the structure of the report, adding two new sections: Physical Environment and Safety, and Health Care. Nine new indicators were also added. These include indicators on child maltreatment, oral health, drinking water quality, lead in the blood of children, child injury and mortality, adolescent injury and mortality, sexual activity, college enrollment, and asthma.

ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCES
In 2005, 78.3 percent of children had at least one parent working year round, full time -- up from 77.6 percent in 2004, but below the peak of 80 percent in 2000. The report states that this percentage has remained relatively high, given the historical context of the early 1990s, when the percentage was 72 percent.

The report noted that secure parental employment reduces the occurrence of poverty and its attendant risks on children. Because most parents obtain health care for themselves and their children through their employers, a secure job for a parent can be important for determining if a child has health care.

"Secure parental employment may also enhance children's psychological well-being and improve family functioning by reducing stress and other negative effects that unemployment and underemployment can have on parents," the report explained.

Black, non-Hispanic children and Hispanic children were less likely than white, non-Hispanic children to have a parent working year round, full time. About 74 percent of Hispanic children and 62 percent of black, non-Hispanic children lived in families with secure parental employment in 2005, compared with 84 percent of white, non-Hispanic children.

The report stated that about 12 million children (17 percent) lived in households classified as food insecure in 2005, down from 19 percent in 2004. The report explains that a family's food security is its access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. The report's food security status is assessed on the basis of household self-reports of difficulty in obtaining enough food, reduced food intake, reduced diet quality, and anxiety about an adequate food supply.

"In some households classified as food insecure, only adults' diets and food intakes were affected, but in a majority of such households, children's eating patterns were also disrupted to some extent and the quality and variety of their diets were adversely affected," the report noted. "In a subset of food-insecure households -- those classified as having very low food security among children -- a parent or guardian reported that at some time during the year one or more children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because the household could not afford enough food."

The percentage of children living in households with very low food security declined from 1.3 percent in 1995 to 0.7 percent in 1999 and has remained in the range of 0.6 to 0.8 percent since then.

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT AND SAFETY
In 2005, 60 percent of children lived in counties in which concentrations of one or more air pollutants rose above allowable levels, up from 46 percent in 2004, but a decrease from 65 percent in 1999. The report noted that children have increased potential for exposure to pollutants because they eat, drink, and breathe more, in proportion to the size of their bodies, than adults. Ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide are air pollutants associated with increased asthma episodes and other respiratory illnesses. Lead, often a component of polluted air, can affect the development of the central nervous system in young children and exposure to carbon monoxide can reduce the capacity of blood to carry oxygen.

The Primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is the standard exceeded most often. High levels of ozone are influenced by high summer temperatures. The report noted that ozone concentrations tended to be lower in 2004 than in other years due to generally lower summer temperatures that year.

The percentage of children served by community water systems that did not meet all applicable health-based drinking water standards rose from 8 percent in 2004 to 10 percent in 2005. However, the percentage of children served by community drinking water systems that did not meet all applicable health-based standards declined from 20 percent in 1993 to about 8 percent in 1998. Since 1998, this percentage has fluctuated between 5 and 10 percent. The report explained that contaminants in drinking water may be quite varied and may cause a range of diseases in children, including acute diseases such as gastrointestinal illness, developmental effects such as learning disorders, and cancer.

Regarding the housing that children lived in, the report stated that, in 2005, 40 percent of U.S. households with children had one or more of three housing problems: physically inadequate housing, crowded housing, or cost burden resulting from housing that costs more than 30 percent of household income. In 2003, 37 percent of households with children had a housing problem. This percentage has increased over the long term from 30 percent in 1978.

"The increase in housing problems among families primarily reflects high housing costs," said Darlene Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary of Policy Development and Research at the
Department of Housing and Urban Development. "As a direct result of increased housing
costs we have seen significant increases in the number of households experiencing cost burdens, including cost burdens exceeding 50 percent of household income. Rent burdens among very low income renters with children accounted for about one-fourth of the increase in families with housing problems during the 2003-2005 period," stated Dr. Williams.

The report added that inadequate housing (housing with severe or moderate physical problems) continues to decrease. In 2005, 5 percent of households with children had inadequate housing, compared with 9 percent in 1978.

FAMILY AND SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT
In 2005, 37 percent of all births were to unmarried women, up from 36 percent in 2004. The percentage of all births to unmarried women rose sharply from 18 percent in 1980 to 33 percent in 1994. From 1994 to 2000, the percentage ranged from 32 to 33 percent. The percentage has increased more rapidly since 2000, reaching 37 percent in 2005. The report noted that children are at greater risk for adverse consequences when born to a single mother because the social, emotional, and financial resources available to the family may be more limited.

In 2005, the adolescent birth rate dropped to a record low, to 21 per 1,000 young women ages 15-17, down from 22 per 1,000 in 2004, and 39 per 1,000 in 1991. This decline follows an increase of one-fourth between 1986 and 1991. There are substantial racial and ethnic
differences among the birth rates for adolescents ages 15-17. In 2005, the birth rate per 1,000 females for this age group was 8 for Asians/Pacific Islanders, 12 for white, non-Hispanics, 31 for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 35 for black, non-Hispanics, and 48 for Hispanics. The birth rate for black, non-Hispanic females ages 15-17 dropped by three-fifths between 1991 and 2005, completely reversing the increase between 1986 and 1991.

The report noted that adolescent child bearing is often associated with long-term difficulties for the mother and her child. Compared with babies born to older mothers, babies born to adolescent mothers are at higher risk of low birthweight and infant mortality. They are more likely to grow up in homes that offer lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation, and they are less likely to earn high school diplomas.

In 2005, 20 percent of school-age children spoke a language other than English at home, up from 19 percent in 2003. Children who speak languages other than English at home and who also have difficulty speaking English may face greater challenges progressing in school and in the labor market, the report explained. In 2005, 5 percent of school-aged children had difficulty speaking English.

This year's report included a new indicator, on child maltreatment in the Section on Family and Social Environment. The report defined child maltreatment as including "physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect (including medical neglect)." In 2005, there were 12 substantiated reports of child maltreatment per 1,000 children. From 1998 through 2002, the rate of substantiated reports of child maltreatment varied between 12 and 13 reports per 1,000 children and has remained at approximately 12 reports per 1,000 children since 2002.

BEHAVIOR
In 2005, the serious violent crime offending rate was 17 crimes per 1,000 juveniles ages 12-17, up from 14 crimes per 1,000 in 2004. The report noted that while the 2005 rate is "somewhat higher" than the 2004 rate, it is significantly lower than the 1993 peak rate of 52 crimes per 1,000 juveniles ages 12-17.

"The level of youth violence in society can be viewed as an indicator of youths' ability to control their behavior, and the adequacy of socializing agents such as families, peers, schools, and religious institutions to supervise or channel youth behavior to acceptable norms," the report explained.

This year's report included a new indicator on sexual activity. The rate of high school students who reported ever having had sexual intercourse remained at 47 percent from 2003 to 2005, a decline from the rate of 54 percent in 1991. The report noted that early sexual activity is associated with emotional and physical health risks.

EDUCATION
In 2004, students were more likely to have taken advanced academic course work in mathematics, science, and foreign languages than they were in 2000. In 2004, 50 percent of graduates had taken at least one advanced mathematics course (defined as a course above
Algebra II), up from 45 percent in 2000 and almost double the 1982 percentage of
26 percent. The percentage of students taking an advanced science course also increased, from 63 percent in 2000, to 68 percent in 2004.

"In science, two-thirds (68 percent) of all high school graduates in 2004 had taken a physics, chemistry, or advanced biology course, almost twice the percentage of graduates in 1982 who had taken this level of science course (35 percent)," the report stated.

In foreign languages, 35 percent of high school graduates had taken a year three, year four, or advanced placement course in 2004, up from 30 percent in 2000 and double the percentage in 1982 (15 percent).

In 2005, 88 percent of young adults ages 18-24 had completed high school with a diploma or an alternative credential such as a General Education Development (GED) certificate. This was a 1 percentage point increase from 2004 and a 4 percentage point increase from 1980.

In 2005, 69 percent of young adults who had completed high school enrolled in a two- or four-year college in the fall of the year they completed high school. By comparison, in 1980 only 49 percent of students who completed high school enrolled immediately after completing school.

HEALTH
The percentage of low birthweight infants (less than 5 pounds. 8 ounces) increased to 8.2 percent in 2005, up from 8.1 percent in 2004 and 7.9 percent in 2003. Among blacks, the percentage of infants with low birthweight for 2005 was higher than for any other racial or
ethnic group, at 14 percent.

The report explained that low birthweight infants are at higher risk of death or long-term illness and disability than are infants of normal birthweight. The report noted that one reason for the increase is the rise in the number of twin, triplet, and higher order multiple births. However, low birthweight has increased even among singleton births. The report added that changes in obstetrical practices, such as the increasing trend toward inducing labor and cesarean delivery, may also have contributed to the increase in low birthweight. An increase in the use of assisted reproductive technology may have also played a role in the increase.

The infant mortality rate was 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004, unchanged from the rate in 2003. In the U.S., about two-thirds of infant deaths occur in the first month after birth and are due mostly to health problems of the infant or the pregnancy, such as preterm delivery or birth defects.

The rates for two of the most frequent health conditions among children, overweight and asthma, have not changed significantly over the past few years but remain at a high level. During 2003- 2004, 18 percent of children ages 6-17 were overweight. The rate was highest among black non-Hispanic girls with one-quarter being overweight, compared to 16 percent among young white non-Hispanic girls and 17 percent of Mexican American girls.

"Almost one in ten children have asthma," said Edward J. Sondik, Director, National Center for Health Statistics, "but like overweight there are significant disparities." In 2005, 13 percent of black, non-Hispanic children under age 18 were reported to currently have asthma, compared with 8 percent of white, non-Hispanic and 9 percent of Hispanic children under age 18. Within the Hispanic population, there are differences, with 20 percent of Puerto Rican children and 7 percent of children of Mexican origin reported to currently have asthma. For the first time, asthma is included as a regular indicator in the report. "This 10th anniversary edition of America's Children includes important new indicators of how our children are faring," said Dr. Sondik. "It's been critical that, over the past decade, this report grew to reflect new issues and new challenges and report on them with the latest and best information available," he said.

DEMOGRAPHIC BACKGROUND
The report noted that in 2006, there were 73.7 million children from ages 0-17 in the United States, representing 25 percent of the population. This was down from a peak of 36 percent at the end of the baby boom in 1964. In 2006, 58 percent of U.S. children were white, non-Hispanic; 20 percent were Hispanic; 15 percent were black; 4 percent were Asian; and 4 percent were all other races. The percentage of children who are Hispanic has increased faster than that of any other racial or ethnic group, growing from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 20 percent in 2006.

Most other indicators in the report did not change significantly from the previous year statistics were compiled. Among those indicators that did not change were the percentage of children in poverty, the percentage of children who received some form of nonparental child care on a regular basis, the percentage of children with at least one foreign born parent, the percentage of students who smoked cigarettes regularly, and the percentage of students who had five or more alcoholic beverages in a row.

Members of the public may access the report on-line at <http://childstats.gov> on July 13.

Alternatively, members of the public also may obtain printed copies from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Information Center, P.O. Box 2910, Merrifield, VA 22116, by calling 1-888-Ask-HRSA (1-888-275-4772), or by e-mailing .

The Forum's Web site at <http://childstats.gov> contains all data updates and detailed statistical information accompanying this year's America's Children in Brief report. As in previous years, not all statistics are collected on an annual basis and therefore, some data in the Brief may be unchanged from last year's report. Members of the public may access the report at <http://childstats.gov>. While supplies last, single copies of the report are available from:

Marcia Rubin, Ph.D. MPH
Director, Research & Sponsored Programs
American School Health Association
7263 Stae Route 43 / P.O. Box 708
Kent, OH 44240
T: 330.678.1601 x 129
F: 330.678.4526
www.ashaweb.org


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Annie E. Casey Releases 2007 KIDSCOUNT

From the Annie E. Casey press release:

2007 KIDS COUNT Data Book



On July 25, 2007, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 18th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the U.S. By providing policymakers and citizens with benchmarks of child well-being, KIDS COUNT seeks to enrich local, state, and national discussions concerning ways to secure better futures for all children. This year's essay examines the child welfare system and challenges the country to make lifelong connections for children and youth in foster care a national priority. The essay also focuses on the 726,000 children who spend time in foster care each year and what can be done to build and strengthen family relationships.

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Using DataPlace To Make Your Case

Tuesday, July 31 at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT/noon MT/11 a.m. PT), DataPlace will host an online chat. Their announcement follows:

This month's DataPlace demonstration will combine an overview of the Web site's rich functionality with "real world" examples of how agencies can make the most productive use of it.

Join Bill Talcott, Associate Director of Research and Programs for KnowledgePlex for this discussion of DataPlace's free, interactive GIS mapping features. Learn how to show funders and stakeholders where the greatest needs for your services lie and how to demonstrate where you've had the most impact over time.

Specifics include:

  • Putting mapping and indicators to work for you
  • Transference of knowledge and data-sharing amongst colleagues
  • Using Groups to collaborate and "continue the discussion"

For more information or to join the discussion, click here.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Community Indicators Down Under

Here's an update from the Metroblogging Melbourne (Australia) blog on the Community Indicators Victoria project.

The project measures down to separate suburban communities a wide range of measures, including "health, wellbeing, social support, volunteers, child health, perceptions of safety, crime, home internet access, food security, adequate work-life balance, transport limitations" and more.

The Bendigo Advertiser reported the results of the project as follows:

McCaughey Centre director John Wiseman said that despite the low national unemployment rate, low inflation and high consumer confidence, the number of people who could not afford food indicated a more comprehensive measurement of a community's wellbeing was needed.

Professor Wiseman said the new research resource aimed to include social, environmental, and cultural factors as well as economic data to create a picture of how our communities were progressing.

He said the Community Indicator project would create a more comprehensive picture of every local government area in Victoria, in order to raise the level of community debate on mental health and community wellbeing and help governments make better decisions.

The project launched yesterday by the McCaughey Centre, a combined VicHealth and Melbourne University organisation, will be regularly updated and provide data by municipality on a wide range of wellbeing issues include housing affordability, financial stress and unemployment, as well as indicators for other factors such as alcohol consumption, domestic violence, illicit drug use, obesity, exercise and fruit and vegetable intake.


I checked out some of the suburb-level, metro, and non-metro reports with great interest, after having not only visited Melbourne (and Bendigo and some of the other areas) last summer, but also watching the 2000 Essendon finals in AFL just yesterday with relatives just back from the area.

The scope of the project is exciting, and the web-based interface simple to navigate. I suggest watching this effort with great interest.

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Urban Markets Initiative Launches UrbanMarketsLab

Here's an important announcement from the Urban Markets Initiative of the Brookings Instittution.

Announcing the soft launch of http://www.urbanmarketslab.org/. Register here to provide your input for this virtual community

The Urban Markets Initiative is actively soliciting input to refine its new web portal, designed to accelerate solutions for information gaps in urban markets. The site,
http://www.urbanmarketslab.org/, will officially launch on October 18, 2007 at the Urban Markets Initiative Forum entitled “Connecting Communities: Using Information to Drive Change.”

This site responds to the articulated need for a portal to connect to
news, to colleagues, and to an information toolbox to drive community change. With competition ensuring a wide choice of technology solutions, it is vital that the community development industry makes it easy for its information users to find the best solution for their needs.

Over the next several months the Urban Markets Initiative will continue to add tools and develop a fully searchable toolbox, moderators for facilitated discussions will be chosen, and opinions on usability will be solicited to improve the site. Please register
here to join the collaboratory if you have not already done so.

"Making data, information, and tools more transparent are important steps towards harnessing market forces to fundamentally improve neighborhoods and the lives of its residents." said Alyssa Stewart Lee, acting director of the Urban Markets Initiative and founder of
http://www.urbanmarketslab.org/. “We know that while this site will be important for all American communities, those that suffer from poor information, like urban markets, will be significant benefactors.”

The mission of the
Urban Markets Initiative is to improve the quality of the information available on urban communities and use it to unleash the full power of those markets while connecting them to the economic mainstream. The Urban Markets Initiative (UMI) was founded by Living Cities, due to the core belief that information and new information tools are critical to increasing market and public investment in urban neighborhoods. Living Cities is a partnership of leading foundations, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations and the federal government that is committed to improving the vitality of cities and urban communities. The Urban Markets Initiative is housed in the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution. http://www.urbanmarketslab.org/ is powered byKnowledgeplex.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

European Happy Planet Index

Here's an interesting note from Nic Marks, of nef (the new economics foundation.) Thought you mind find it interesting.

Europe-wide research by nef (the new economics foundation), using a new measure of carbon efficiency and real economic progress reveals that Europe is less efficient today at delivering human well-being than it was 40 years ago.

The European Happy Planet Index: An index of carbon efficiency and well-being in the EU reveals for the first time the carbon efficiency with which 30 European nations produce long, happy lives for their citizens. The ranking reveals a very different picture of the current health and wealth of European nations. nef's analysis, published in association with Friends of the Earth, also looks back over the last 40 years and comes to surprising and worrying conclusions. In an age of climate change, when it is more important than ever that we use our resources efficiently, nef's Index reveals that:

  • Europe as a whole has become less efficient, not more, in translating fossil fuel use into measurable ‘happy-life-years’. The Index reveals that Europe is less carbon efficient now than it was in 1961.
  • Across Europe people report comparable levels of well-being whether their lifestyles imply the need for the resources of six and a half, or just one planet like Earth. The message to politicians is that people are just as likely to lead satisfied lives whether their levels of consumption are very low or high and therefore they should not be afraid of policies to reduce demand.
  • Iceland tops the Index. Scandinavian countries are the most efficient – achieving the highest levels of well-being in Europe at relatively low environmental cost with Sweden and Norway joining Iceland at the top of the HPI table. Iceland’s combination of strong social policies and extensive use of renewable energy demonstrate that living within our environmental means doesn’t mean sacrificing human well-being – in fact, it could even make us happier.
  • The UK comes a poor 21st out of the 30 countries analysed, and nations that have most closely followed the Anglo-Saxon, strongly market-led economic model show up as the least efficient on the Index.

The European Happy Planet Index: An Index of carbon efficiency and well-being

Does happiness have to cost the earth? Read nef's
Happy Planet report to find out.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

New Community Indicator Projects

I thought I'd pass along a few new community indicator projects you might be interested in seeing.

Is all well in paradise? Just check out Measuring What Matters for Kaua`i - Community Indicators Report 2006 for a fascinating look at what the community indicators are saying as well as 28 "opportunities for action" that the report identifies.

Secondly, a project under development comes to us from Walla Walla, Washington. The project is still under development, but the blog associated with the project gives an interesting and informative view at the decisions being made and partnerships developed in order to make the project happen. It's worth a look.

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Respecting Happiness Research

From the ISQOLS listserve, an article to pass along from the Financial Times:

Happiness research should be respected a little more

From Prof Andrew Oswald
Financial Times, Friday, June 8, 2007, p. 12

Sir, Although Martin Wolf says sensible things in his article "Why progressive taxation is not the route to happiness" (June 6), at some points his argument is incomplete or wrong.

First, as Mr. Wolf shows, reported happiness has run flat in the rich countries over the last few decades. That graph could usefully be pinned up in every prime minister's and president's office. Although not explained in the article, in some nations, such as Britain and the Netherlands, we know that formal measures of mental health have worsened over time.

Second, Mr. Wolf mentions that he sees the philosophical and scientific underpinnings of this line of research as far from persuasive. He does not give reasons. What we do know is that anonymous referees with enough PhD certificates to wallpaper every floor of the FT's London headquarters have checked the countless "happiness" articles that have appeared recently in economics, psychology and epidemiology journals. The outright rejection rate in these journals is about 90 per cent, and it is normal to take five years from seeing it appear in refereed journal. This does not mean the science is correct; academics often wander down paths that turn out to be muddle-headed. But it does mean that the science is the best we have in 2007, and perhaps that should be respected a little more.

Third, almost all researchers would agree with Mr. Wolf that the happiness literature has not proved the case for progressive taxation. The best statement of exactly that was presented by David Weisbach last week at the University of Chicago; it can be read on the web. The same conference saw a remarkable paper by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, both of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, in which they document an apparent decline across western society in women's happiness relative to that of men. This fact is important and little-known.

Fourth, the happiness literature should not be treated as something to buttress prior political views. Researchers who see red and blue flashing from their computer screens are not likely to be ones we should trust.

Andrew Oswald,
Professor of Economics,
University of Warwick,
Warwick CV4 7AL, UK

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