Supporting Territorial Data Equity

The U.S. territories are an integral part of the fabric of America, vital to U.S. national security interests and contributing to the economy and environmental diversity of the United States. Although part of the United States, the U.S. territories, by the very nature of being U.S.-affiliated insular areas, possess unique legal relationships with the Federal Government. These legal relationships can have unique implications for the U.S. territories, including inequities in data and statistics relative to their state counterparts. These inequities in data and statistics limit the availability of economic, demographic, and environmental information about the U.S. territories and their communities. The Office of Insular Affairs, in its role to serve, and meet the needs of, the people living in the U.S. territories continues to support, and advocate for, the development of meaningful, quality statistics in these insular areas. This goal is the foundation of evidence-based policymaking which aims to utilize data to identify policy needs, determine resource allocations, and measure performance effectively and efficiently.

Bringing Awareness to Data Challenges in Identifying Disadvantaged Communities in the U.S. Territories

The Office of Insular Affairs has, and continues to, advocate for a Federal coordinated plan that assesses and puts forth a holistic strategy for improving data and statistics collection in the U.S. territories. OIA’s activities to date have focused on bringing awareness to the magnitude of the current gaps and the impacts that these gaps have on territorial communities as well Federal activities.

Addressing Current Needs 

The Office of Insular Affairs utilizes many of its own resources to address the known data gaps and mitigate inequities in information. These activities include funding local territorial offices in the creation of data and statistics, contractual agreements with Federal statistical agencies to address known data gaps and using communication channels to share information and opportunities among stakeholders and subject matter experts.

  • OIA Resources Supporting Territorial Data Needs
    • The Technical Assistance Program (TAP) grants are intended for short-term, non-capital projects that foster development of the insular areas in several areas including accountability, financial management, economic development, and capacity building. The annual appropriation of funds can be used to support territorial priorities in improving the creation of information (e.g., electronic databases, master address files, training, etc.), as well as statistics (e.g., Consumer Price Index, Household Income and Expenditure Survey, Visitor Surveys, etc.)
  • Pause to 2024 Bureau of Economic Analysis Agreement contract for 2023 Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
    As part of the effort to help address territorial data gaps, for over a decade the Office of Insular Affairs has funded BEA’s production of annual GDP in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Producing GDP for the U.S. territories is uniquely challenging because many of the surveys and source data BEA uses for the state GDP are not available to the U.S. territories. This has required BEA to allocate resources to the identification, collection, and compilation of alternative source data. Although this approach has allowed for the production of the GDP estimates, these statistics are delayed and lacking details relative to state counterparts. This challenge, alongside cost increases in 2024, lead the Office of Insular Affairs to pause the agreement in order to ensure that the office’s limited resources are providing the most utility to the U.S. territories. During this pause the Office of Insular Affairs is partnering with the Graduate School USA contractors to assess options for the future of economic statistics.
  • Exploratory Research of Source Data for Economic Statistics
    During the pause to the BEA contract Office of Insular Affairs sis focused on evaluating what source data is currently, or could be available in territorial administrative databases, that could serve as a source for economic statistics where survey data is not available. Office of Insular Affairs is working alongside its Graduate School USA PITI-VITI contractors, who have experience in the Insular Areas and development of economic statistics, to evaluate where information exists or has potential. The outcome of this work will not make decisions on how the territorial economic statistics will be developed in the future Rather, the goal of this effort is to collect information that can inform a future discussion of how best to support meaningful statistics for the U.S. territories.
Data Resources 

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