Black Evanston residents are more likely to attend City Council meetings and participate in other community events than their white counterparts.

That is a perhaps unexpected finding of a new equity survey conducted by the city that’s to be discussed at Monday night’s Human Services Committee meeting.

Eight hundred people responded to the survey, which was conducted between June 20 and July 4 and was available in online and paper formats.

Forty-four percent of black respondents said they had attended a City Council meeting in the previous year, while only 27 percent of whites, 26 percent of Hispanics and 20 percent of Asians said they did the same.

Blacks also were most likely to say they had “participated in a community-sponsored event” last year, with 97 percent answering yes to that question. Participation levels for other groups were only slightly lower: 86 percent for whites, 90 percent for Hispanics and 88 percent for Asians.

Much of the impetus for the city’s equity efforts has been premised on an assumption that minority group members are less likely than whites to participate in city government and community activities.

For some groupings, respondents to the survey fairly closely matched demographic data available for Evanston from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, while in other respects they differed greatly.

Whites and blacks were slightly overrepresented among survey respondents, while Asians and Hispanics were more dramatically under-represented.

Younger people were underrepresented among respondents to the equity survey, while some older age groups were overrepresented. (The chart compares the share of population 25 and older. Survey and census categories for lower ages weren’t in alignment.)

Women composed 76 percent of the survey respondents, while they make up only 53 percent of Evanston’s population.

Survey respondents were also more likely to have incomes over $100,000. The census data says 36 percent of Evanston households make that much; 46 percent of survey respondents said they do.

In a memo to aldermen, Equity and Empowerment Coordinator Pat Efiom suggested conducting a new study that would place more emphasis on questions about access to city services.

She also argued that a mail-in survey delivered to a random sample of households would be more likely to garner a statistically valid response.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Survey responses

    Bill   Do they indicate if most responses were made online or using paper? Were they able to block a person from responding more than once if the did  survey online?

    1. Surveys

      87.5 percent of the surveys were done online.

      They used SurveyMonkey for the online surveys. Typically SurveyMonkey only lets you respond once per computer IP address. But I don’t know whether that restriction was in place for this survey.

      — Bill

  2. Equity Survey
    It is dismaying that a city management as sophisticated as Evanston’s continues to conduct non-representative surveys and then to base decisions on the information collected. The packet for tonight’s Human Services Committee presention on the Equity and Empowerment initiative has page after page graphically presenting data recently gathered. Only buried in one small paragraph are the words, “…because the participants were not randomly selected and participation was completely voluntary it cannot be assumed that findings of the survey are representative of the population.” In other words, don’t make assumptions that these data accurately present the facts about all Evanston residents. Come on, folks, Evanston can do better. Perhaps an annual stratified random sample survey with results weighted to reflect actual population information might get us closer to making decisions based on the experiences and concerns of all the people, not just those who feel the most strongly about issues. Media folks….please include qualifiers when you present the offered data!

    1. Surveys

      Hi Joey,

      Regarding qualifiers … please read the last two paragraphs of the story.

      Regarding survey validity … to the extent the survey is trying to reach populations that are presumed to be disaffected from city government, it’s not clear to me that switching to a by-mail survey would solve the problem — although it would substantially increase the cost.

      It’s just as easy to throw a paper survey into the trash as it is to ignore a request to fill out an online survey.

      That’s why the census bureau has to spend money on enumerators to go door to door to reach people who don’t return their census forms.

      I agree with you that an online survey has its limitations — but the city probably needs to seek some expert advice before it throws money at any other survey technique.

      — Bill

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