changes in police policy for the disposition of juvenile offenses may result in dramatic increases or decreases in arrest rates without any change in the actual rate of juvenile crimes committed. Even census data, which are very reliable overall, have been shown to substantially underestimate the number of both black and white children in large urban settings (West and Robinson, 1999).
Second, data sources often use different and incompatible geographic units when they report (e.g., school catchment area, census tract, health district, or other specially defined service area). This can limit the ability to draw on multiple data sources to produce a picture or profile for particular neighborhoods.
Other problems can include a lack of separate estimates for important population subgroups (e.g., Hispanics), long time lags between data collection and release, and a lack of public accessibility. In many communities, estimates that could support planning efforts outside local government never make it beyond the walls of the agencies and departments that collect them.
Table 8–1 presents the types of indicator data available from administrative data and from the three community survey instruments we reviewed, sorted by the domains in our youth development framework. In the youth outcome domains, administrative data are quite strong in the areas of cognitive development, negative outcomes or behaviors, and physical health. They are weak sources of indicator data in the areas of psychological, emotional, and social development. And, with the exception of the cognitive development domain, the indicators are heavily weighted toward negative outcomes. This should not be surprising given the reliance on crime, vital statistics, health surveillance, and social service receipt data, all of which focus primarily on negative events.
Among the social setting domains that influence youth development, administrative data are strongest in the safety, social norms, and opportunities for skill building domains. They are weak to nonexistent in the structure, emotional and intellectual support, opportunities for efficacy, and integration domains.
For this review we have chosen three of the best known and most widely used surveys of youth at the state and community levels. All three surveys are based entirely on youth reports, are commonly administered