he Short Answer
1. Populations and subpopulations can be defined by geography or by both characteristic and geography.
2. Examples of populations include: all children in the county, all children 0 to 5 in the county, all children 0 to 5 in the Fairfield neighborhood of the county; all elders in the state, all elders in the state with incomes below the poverty level, all citizens in the city, all citizens with disabilities in the city.
(1) Populations can be defined by geography or by both characteristic and geography.
Geography Example: all children in the county, all elders in the state, all citizens in the community
Characteristic and Geography Example: all school age children with disabilities in the county, all frail elders over age 85 in the state, all families with children in the community
(2) We are familiar with geographic subpopulations. States are geographic subpopulations of the entire country. Counties are subpopulations of states. Cities and communities are subpopulations of counties.
(3) Subpopulations by characteristic are also commonly understood. For example, the children’s collaborative might consider the well-being of all children and families in the community. Another group might consider the well-being of all children from a particular ethnic or cultural group, or all children 0 to 5, or all children with disabilities. These are subpopulations. And the entire thinking process outlined above can be applied to these populations as well.
For example we could put the population “All Hispanic Children”at the top of the page, articulate the results we want for these children, how we would experience these results, identify indicators, create baselines, develop the story behind the baselines and ask who are the partners and what works to turn the curve to do better.
(4) The principle difficulty with Results-Based Accountability for subpopulations is data. As the group gets smaller and smaller it is harder to get reliable timely data to use as indicators. This means that the process can follow the pathway where experience and the data development agenda serve as proxies for indicators. (See 1.4 Where do I start?)
(5) A unique and important population to consider in this work is the TOTAL population of a state, county, city or community. Much of this guide is about the populations of children and families with children. But these same principles can be applied to the total population. And in fact, this is the basis for the quality of life community well-being report cards that are being produced across the country. Some of the best work here is in Oregon (The Oregon Benchmarks), and Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County California. See Case Studies.)