Social Indicators for Rural Alaska Communities (SIRAC)
This project aims to determine how social conditions for Alaska Natives living in small arctic communities have changed since 2000, and differ among communities and small regions. The Census Long Form Survey historically provided much of the data for measuring social and economic conditions in the U.S. Its replacement with the American Community Survey (ACS) after the 2000 Census has raised serious concerns about whether Census data continue to provide accurate measures of well-being in rural Alaska communities, at a time when the region faces unprecedented environmental and socio-economic change. The project addresses the uncertainty with ACS data by developing a new set of social, economic, and cultural indicators with increased capability to detect differences at local scales. Specific objectives include: (1) systematically examine the reliability of ACS data for rural Alaska by disaggregating published margins of error into components expressing dispersion across communities, years, and individuals; (2) construct socio-economic indicators for rural Alaska communities and regions with substantially smaller margins of error than published results; (3) estimate key indicators for communities where observations are sparse or missing entirely; and (4) test whether communities and regions have changed or differ significantly with respect to one or more indicators. The project pursues these objectives through modeling and statistical analyses of multiple primary data sources, including individual interview data from the ACS and the previous censuses in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau. Project outputs include a set of socio-economic indicators with improved reliability over published ACS figures that can help state and local governments and non-governmental organizations allocate funds, plan, and evaluate social service and economic development programs. A pioneering application of data assimilation with a social system model aids arctic social observing system design by revealing highest priority targets for new data collection for observing and understanding social change in arctic communities.