How many federal dollars are invested in Head Start, 21st Century Learning, or Pell grants here in Sarasota County, and how do these investments relate to reductions in families experiencing poverty in our community? How many federal dollars is the U.S. spending on Medicare/Medicaid or Social Security Retirement Insurance here in Sarasota County, and how do these investments correspond with people using community health centers? National Priorities Project has put together an interactive web-based mapping tool so that we can explore these questions and more.
Here’s how the folks of the National Priorities Project introduce themselves:
“Welcome. National Priorities Project is a federal budget research organization. Yes, we're wonks. But we also believe all people—even the non-wonks—should understand the local impact of federal dollars. Our database has two types of information: social indicators (example: unemployment rates) and federal expenditures (example: amount spent on unemployment insurance). Compare them. Find your state and county and tell a story.”
This sounds a lot like the “community data for community change” philosophy that SCOPE champions. And the database is much like the Composite GIS Map that we are creating here in Sarasota County -- which includes various boundary systems, demographics, and assets (which includes expenditures), as well as indicators of well-being (i.e. “social indicators”) -- but at a more local scale.
Databases such as these are resources through which we can learn more about the place we live, and how public policies and dollar / resource allocations can affect different aspects of our lives. The Federal Priorities Database faces some of the same challenges we often mention – some of the data is several years old, and it does not get any more granular than the whole county scale. This makes it hard to spot changes as they are occurring, and to look at patterns of differentiation within Sarasota County.
Nonetheless, it is a promising innovation, worth building upon.
Try it out, and if you spot significant patterns relating to Sarasota County, relative to other counties in Florida or across the nation, let us know – we’ll then see if we can track down the corresponding local data, so that we can zoom in to examine the same pattern at the within-county scale.
Participatory data in the making!
**Note if you are using an older version of Internet Explorer; (Version 8), there may be a bug when loading the database causing the search box to disappear. If you click on the “Create your own search” button it will restore the variables. Alternatively, you can use Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari without this complication.