There is a long tradition of using data collected for administrative purposes to produce social and economic indicators (Rossi 1972; Annie E. Casey Foundation 2005). Indicators are measures of the condition or status of populations or institutions that can be compared over time or between places and groups. In recent years, there has been growing interest in developing indicators for communities and neighborhoods that can be used to improve local conditions or support action by groups and organizations that work at that level. Community indicators are employed by neighborhood associations, local governments, businesses, nonprofit agencies, researchers, youth groups, and other individuals and organizations. Indicators have been successfully used to identify problems, plan programs, stimulate action, advocate for change, target investments, evaluate initiatives, and otherwise inform the community about itself (Cowan and Kingsley forthcoming).
The data used to craft neighborhood indicators often come fromadministrative agencies. Administrative records are particularly useful for community indicators because they are timelier or can be applied to smaller areas than government surveys. Moreover, the application of geographic information system (GIS) technology to these records makes it feasible to calculatemany indicators for small areas and to display them in useful ways. Many sources and types of data from administrative agencies can be used to produce measures useful to neighborhoods and communities. This monograph describes these data sources because such information is not readily available in a comprehensive review elsewhere. Most databases described here are maintained by local agencies, but a few state and federal databases can also be used for small-area measures.
The terms neighborhood and community are both used in this monograph, as they are used in practice, to refer to areas that are smaller than cities and towns. While these concepts are inherently political, social, and psychological aswell as geographic, the discussion of indicators assumes that data are organized geographically so they pertain to places of local interest and identity.
This monograph begins with a brief section on recent developments in neighborhood indicators work, followed by a discussion of some practical and methodological challenges of using administrative records data for indicators. The main body of the monograph is a catalog that describes the types of administrative records being used to craft neighborhood indicators. The descriptions are brief, and, where possible, the reader is referred to sources for additional information.