Saturday, July 25, 2009

New web site compiles Ohio data on social health indicators

Did you know that there were 354 deer-vehicle collisions in Lucas County in 2007?

Or that 8.62% of the total acreage in the county is designated 'green space'?

Or that the average food assistance per recipient in Lucas County in 2007 was $103.87/month?

Or that there were 180 adoptions in our county in 2007?

These, and other facts, are now available on the Secretary of State's web page under the category Better Lives, which was introduced last week.

The searchable web page provides statistical information about the state's 'social health' in areas such as education, government, natural resources, health, public safety, family and the economy.

Several years of information are available, with the most recent on most categories being 2007. Voter turnout data is available for 2008, which makes sense considering this is the Secretary of State website. However, most of the public safety crime information (you can search on various categories like assault, robbery, homicide, and fatal crashes) is only available through 2006.

While this information may be interesting to the casual observer, I can see bloggers and other activists taking advantage of the information presented.

For instance, below are the numbers and a chart of the food assistance recipients in Lucas County from 2001 to 2007.

2001: 38,471
2002: 43,838
2003: 50,613
2004: 56,190
2005: 59,680
2006: 61,883
2007: 62,643

As a commissioner from 2003-2006, these increasing numbers concerned me. Partly, they were a result in increased eligibility rules, raising the limits of what people could earn and still receive monies. But those increased limits cannot account for a 62% increase in recipients over a six-year period of time - especially during an up economy.

So what is accounting for the huge increase in numbers of people? Cuyahoga County, our nearest large urban comparison, saw only a 47% increase in recipients. And if our recipients have increased 63%, why have our expenditures in this area increased 118%? Does inflation account for the difference?

These are the questions that come to mind when I look at the various data available. What questions do you have? And how can this information influence policy and decisions we make?

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