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Survey – American cities depend on federal data

“A Sunlight Foundation survey of staff in 63 American cities reveals that data collected and published by the federal government is a crucial resource for local communities.Federal data is uniquely important to cities. The federal government collects information on things like population, household incomes, race and ethnicity, public health, and economic activity, among many others, that municipalities cannot. In some cases it is simply more efficient for the federal government to collect this information. “It’s beyond our ability to track global climate trends,” as one city staffer put it. In other cases, having cities collect this data themselves would be inappropriate. “Can you imagine if we made national decisions based on every city’s independent estimate of their population?” another pointed out. Cities use federal data to inform all kinds of decisions at the local level. Federal data helps cities make choices about how to allocate resources and prioritize projects. Federal data also helps cities understand how they are performing over time and how they compare to other cities across the country. This type of data-driven, evidence-based decision making is a core part of accountable, efficient, and effective government. The Sunlight Foundation and our partners at What Works Cities are dedicated to helping cities across the country incorporate this approach into their own work. Federal data is a key part of this.”

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