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.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kruse's Social Indicators 2007

Last year, we talked about Michael Kruse's series on social indicators. He's now launching his American Social Indicators, 2007, and you may be interested in what he has to say.

The question he asks is, "Is America in decline?" He describes his methodology thusly:

I'm going to look at some statistical indicators from demography, sociology, economics and other fields that social scientists look to as broad indicators of quality of life. Depending on the indicator, we will be looking at timeframes of 30-50 years to get a sense about what trajectory things are on. I am sure you have heard the expression, “It’s easy to lie with statistics.” That's true. But it is even easier to lie without them! Quantified observations are a good place to start a conversation about social forces at work in the culture.

What I like about his work (besides the great line -- "it's even easier to lie without them!") is the sense of perspective he adds to the debate. For example, in our community we're working to address the infant mortality rate. It's a critical task, and the problem is not to be taken lightly. Kruse points out, and rightly so, that the infant mortality rate has dropped more than 75% over the past fifty years. That's worth noting, even as we wrestle with racial disparities in infant mortality rate and the knowledge that in the U.S. (especially in comparison with the developed world) the rates could (and should) be lower.

So take a look at Kruse's series. You may find something surprising in the mix. It's certainly food for thought.


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