Department of Administration
658 Cedar St., Suite 300, St. Paul, MN 55155 651-296-6398
Page last modified: Monday, 04-Mar-2013 15:10:15 CST
Saturday May 18, 2013 05:12:37 AM
|Dept. of Administration / Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis|
Children's Report Card Links
Analyzing Local Data
Many communities use the Children’s Report Card to set priorities and create strategies to shape local public policy. Here are a few suggestions for understanding and using local data.
Be sure the data is complete. How and when data is reported is important information. Are the numbers complete at the time of reporting or are they modified later? Are all jurisdictions represented or have a few not reported?
Examine the data for consistency. Data is not always consistently reported. Sometimes personal judgment enters the process. Do local communities have any unwritten policies on reporting? Are the same definitions used consistently from department to department and from year to year?
Give the numbers a reality check. How communities respond to issues can make a difference to data interpretation. Do data trends reflect a worsening of the problem or a higher level of reporting and enforcement?
Determine whether the data has changed enough to be significant. Use caution when identifying trends, especially in counties with small populations. To understand data changes, study the size of the population base used to calculate rates or percentages. For example, infant mortality rates can vary greatly in small counties. The rate can double if the number of deaths increases from one to two in counties with 100 births per year. To adjust for such data sensitivities, Minnesota Planning now reports a three-year average for infant mortality rates, rather than a single-year rate. Some counties may find that multiple-year analysis is more meaningful for other indicators as well.
Check for population changes that may explain data shifts. Some communities experience seasonal population fluctuations, which might alter data interpretation. Do the changing numbers reflect a changing age structure in the general population or subgroups? Are population shifts being detected by current population estimates?
Give high and low rankings a closer look. Some counties may be rated among the lowest because of aggressive reporting practices for particular indicators, such as child abuse. Are the counties with positive rankings really making progress, or are they lacking standards reporting procedures?
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