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 Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day, and the subject is poverty. You will remember blog action day from last year's discussion of sustainability. For more about blog action day and what others are writing, click here.

Here are the 2007 poverty statistics for the United States, as reported by the U.S. Census/ACS:

  • The official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent, not statistically different from 2006.
  • In 2007, 37.3 million people were in poverty, up from 36.5 million in 2006.
  • Poverty rates in 2007 were statistically unchanged for non-Hispanic Whites (8.2 percent), Blacks (24.5 percent), and Asians (10.2 percent) from 2006. The poverty rate increased for Hispanics (21.5 percent in 2007, up from 20.6 percent in 2006).
  • The poverty rate in 2007 was lower than in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available, while statistically higher than the most recent trough in 2000 (11.3 percent).
  • The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (18.0 percent in 2007, up from 17.4 percent in 2006), while it remained statistically unchanged for people 18 to 64 years old (10.9 percent) and people 65 and over (9.7 percent).

Last year we talked about the difficulty in measuring child poverty. That was part of a series of conversations about the how we measure poverty that you can find here, here, and here. We all measure poverty in some format in our community indicators projects. We know it's a critically important variable in social and economic health of our communities, and we understand that it is a social determinant of physical health. Nearly every quality-of-life indicator we measure impacts or is impacted by poverty.

And yet we find it really, really hard to define, harder to measure, and even harder to change.

I'm looking for your success stories -- how has your community taken your measures of poverty or income inequality and galvanized change around this indicator? Where have you seen progress in bending this trend line?

Here's our community's major initiative, to get the conversational ball rolling. It's called Blueprint for Prosperity, and seeks to raise per capita income and lower poverty in the community. It's a 15-year commitment to community improvement, and progress is reported annually in a set of benchmarks we track for the city. It's early in the initiative, and I don't have success stories to tell -- some rise in per capita income and wages through 2007, which have likely vanished in the last several months (we'll know more as the data become available.)

What's going on in your community that you would like to share?


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