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The Breakdown

How the Community Assessment Project got its numbers.

By Jessica Lussenhop

This year the annual Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project survey revealed a number of statistics that paint a bleak picture of life in recession-era Santa Cruz County. For example, one in 10 county residents have had to live temporarily with a family member or friend in the last year due to the cost of housing, we've had over 1,500 foreclosures, housing prices are dropping while rent is climbing, and the number of Latino adults with health insurance coverage tumbled from 78 percent in 2007 to 53 percent this past year. Other indicators are a little brighter: the number of high school dropouts has decreased, and 97.9 percent of children under 18 are covered by health insurance.

But one wonders how such data is compiled for indicators as disparate as high school substance abuse and the amount of pesticide used in the county. Abbie Stevens, project manager for Applied Survey Research, which compiles the CAP every year, says that while its telephone survey of over 700 people -- which for the first time included cell phone numbers -- is its own original work, the CAP also includes hundreds of data points from other sources, everything from the California Healthy Kids Survey to crime statistics from local law enforcement. "What the CAP does is it takes information that is available on the web but compiles it all in one place," she says. "People can easily collect this information. They don't have to click around the web." Stevens says this has been particularly useful for grant writing, and although it's a survey model being used all over the world, CAP, at 15, is one of the oldest.

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