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May 2000Vol. 1, No. 3Seeking Better Ways to Measure Child Well-Being

Over the years, "social indicators" have been developed as a way to track progress in a wide variety of economic, quality of life, and other types of issues affecting children and families. A new research brief from Child Trends outlines why indicators are used and what constitutes an effective measurement. Building a Better System of Child and Family Indicators proposes criteria to improve the social indicators used to assess the well-being of children. According to the document, social indicators should:

  • Comprehensively cover outcomes, behavior, and processes
  • Include children of all ages
  • Be clear and comprehensible to the public
  • Measure positive as well as negative outcomes
  • Assess depth, breadth, and duration
  • Have the same meaning in varied population subgroups
  • Provide consistency over time
  • Anticipate trends
  • Employ rigorous collection methods
  • Be geographically detailed
  • Be cost-efficient
  • Reflect social goals
  • Adjust for demographic trends.

Building a Better System of Child and Family Indicators can be obtained online at: or by contacting the Publications Department at Child Trends, 202-362-5580.

Related Item

A new inventory of over 90 child, youth, and family indicator-based projects is available online at (Editor's note: this link is no longer available). A limited number of hard copies are available from Erik Michelson at Child Trends, 202-362-5580.