Guided by our proven Community Learning through Data-Driven Discovery (CLD3) approach, community-based research teams composed of Cooperative Extension System professionals (CES), university students and faculty, postdocs, and community stakeholders launched research projects aimed at identifying opportunities to advance economic mobility in Oregon, Iowa, and Virginia.

The current state of the CLD3 process is captured in each of the following case studies, which cover a range of communities, including state-wide, regional and particular communities of interest.

Case Studies

Water flowing into river with fall foliage
Water Resource Management in Floyd County, Virginia

Factors that affect water quality and quantity issues were studied in Floyd County, a rural county in Southwest Virginia. Because nearly all the residents in the county rely on well and natural spring systems for their water supply, this was the focus of the project. Remote sensing data from both the GRACE satellites and the Landsat 8 satellites were used to develop estimates for the water quantity trends in the area. Water quality issues were addressed looking at sources and factors that might lead to potential contamination of the county’s water resources. Strategies that the county could utilize for sustainable and efficient use of their water resources for future industrial and residential development were also developed.

Tracking Indicators of the Economic and Social Mobility of the Black Community in Hampton Roads, Virginia

Hampton Roads is a coastal region of Virginia comprised of 10 cities and six counties. It represents most of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan statistical area (MSA), the 37th largest MSA in the United States. Black families represent 31% of the area's population, and approximately 15% of them are below the poverty line. This is nearly double the general population of Hampton Roads, 8.1% of which is below the poverty line. This project used publicly available Census data to analyze trends and statistics on key indicators of economic well-being of the black community in Hampton Roads. These indicators were compared across the Hampton Roads localities and with the Virginia population. A dashboard was developed to provide insights to regional stakeholders for planning policies and activities to positively affect the community.

Young adults standing together looking at mountain
Service Provision for Vulnerable Transition Aged Youth in Loudoun County, Virginia

Transition Aged Youth (TAY), young adults ages 18-24, encounter numerous difficulties in their transition to adulthood. The transition can be especially difficult for youths "aging out” of foster care or those exiting the juvenile detention system. Motivated by the Loudoun County Human Services Strategic Plan 2019-2024, the availability of services for TAYs were identified in five major areas: education, employment, housing, transportation, and health. Geospatial mapping and interactive trees were used to identify intra-county variation in services provision and utilization. Cross-county analysis was also conducted between Loudoun County and comparable counties: Fairfax County, Virginia and Allegany County, Pennsylvania. Individuals who were disproportionately served TAY were identified as a basis for further action by the county.

Aerial view of housing
Availability of Services: Evolving Demographics, Housing, and Traffic in Rappahannock County, Virginia

Publicly available data from the American Community Survey (ACS) was used to explore questions and concerns on provision of services held by stakeholders in Rappahannock County, Virginia. A county profile was created that displays information on age, race, income, employment, housing prices, and more. Additionally, traffic volume data from the Virginia Department of Transportation was analyzed to identify areas of increased or decreased traffic in the last ten years (2010-2020). Finally, community services and resources were aggregated to visualize the availability of services to residents of the county. Using the county profile, traffic volume data, and the service data, data-driven descriptions of service provision in Rappahannock County, Virginia during the last decade were documented.

Rural family with Dog
Access Barriers to Health in Rural Virginia

Rural counties often face challenges in providing health care access to its residents given few health facilities available, lack of broadband infrastructure that limits providing telemedicine access or communicating health information, and individual-level inequalities that pose barriers to health care access and use. Identifying areas of high need or potential solutions may also be difficult for rural areas without adequate resources to acquire, analyze, and interpret relevant data. This dashboard builds local capacity, leveraging social and data science to construct a rural county dashboard enhancing data-driven health access decision making in rural Virginia. The dashboard uses Virginia Department of Health Office of Rural Health's definition of county rurality. For every county considered rural, maps and data on community socioeconomic characteristics, food access, internet access, and health care access are provided. A tool that allows you to compare the rural status of Virginia's counties according to multiple available definitions is also provided.

Addressing Barriers to Health Care Access and Use in Patrick County, Virginia

Patrick County’s only hospital closed in 2017, leaving one doctor’s office and an urgent care center. Their doctor-patient ratio is 6,020 to 1 for primary care physicians, almost 5 times higher than the state ratio. The county is located in southwest Virginia on the North Carolina border and has a population of 18,000 residents. An aging population, lack of broadband, and transportation challenges in the mountainous terrain are formidable hurdles. Patrick County’s Cooperative Extension agent and University of Virginia researchers are working with Healthy Patrick County, a stakeholder group, and the Virginia Department of Health’s local Population Health Manager to identifying areas for improvement of critical social determinants of health including access to healthy food, technology and internet, and resources for their elderly population.

Understanding Incarceration
Understanding Incarceration and Recidivism in Halifax County, Virginia

Halifax County’s high incarceration and recidivism accounts for a large portion of the county’s budget and has spillover costs that are not directly accounted for, such as for foster care. A county of 37,000 people in the rural south-central part of Virginia, the county is seeking financial support to conduct an economic impact study and to hire a full-time Family and Consumer Sciences Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) agent to work with these families. To obtain support from a local funder requires them to gain an understanding of the factors leading to high incarceration and recidivism rates and ideas to mitigate these issues. Working together the county administrator, regional VCE agents, and University of Virginia researchers are creating a social and economic profile of the county focused on factors that affect prisoner reentry and recidivism, e.g., unemployment, poverty, teenage pregnancy, drug use; and job opportunities in the county.

Measuring Infrastructure
Measuring Economic and Social Infrastructure: Intergenerational Poverty in Page County

Page County has a significant population of incarcerated residents in recovery with few employment opportunities available. Located in a largely agricultural area in northeast Virginia, the Page County Economic Development Community Action Team is interested in starting an agricultural-based social enterprise that would work with residents to acquire skills and jobs. They would like to understand the practicality of this goal before applying for grants to start the social enterprise. The Page Count Cooperative Extension agent and Virginia Tech researchers are creating data insights to identify the areas to assist Page County’s formerly incarcerated residents, including alleviating food insecurity, homelessness, low job skills, and substance abuse recovery.

Food Insecurity
Measuring Regional Food Insecurity and the Role of a Loudon County Food Hub

Although Loudoun County has the highest average income in the United States, they have a significant population that is food insecure. Loudoun is largely rural, with the majority of its 425,000 residents concentrated in the eastern part of the county. Health Services Strategic Plan Advisory Committee wants to assess the feasibility of creating a food hub that connects schools, restaurants and the community to increase the availability and quality of food to their those that cannot afford or have access to healthy food. The Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from several social service agencies, and community organizations, believes the food hub will improve community engagement, social cohesion, civic participation, and cultural awareness. Loudoun County’s Cooperative Extension Agent and Virginia Tech researchers are examining food hubs in the Charlottesville and other areas as well as creating data-driven profiles of Loudoun County’s low-income populations to inform the feasibility of creating a food hub.

Wythe County Industry
Industry and Workforce Attraction and Retention in Wythe County

Wythe County wants to understand why companies locate where they do and what the county can do to be more competitive. The county faces the same challenges as other rural counties – declining population, poor broadband coverage, drug addiction, and a high poverty rate. To address these issues, they would like to increase their job opportunities. Located in southwestern Virginia, with a population around 29,000, the Executive Director of the county’s Joint Industrial Development Authority (JIDA), wants to identify factors that would improve Wythe’s attractiveness to companies. The Virginia Cooperative Extension agent and Virginia Tech researchers are investigating factors that affect Wythe’s ability to attract companies, as well as the benefits and costs of the Wythe industrial park.

Understanding Evictions in Richmond: Policy, Community, and Individual Factors

Richmond City has the highest eviction rate in Virginia and is in the top 10 in the country. More than one out of four of the 221,000 Richmond City residents are poor and many are evicted on a recurring basis. The coronavirus has exacerbated their problems. City of Richmond Treasurer's Office Financial Education Center and the Southside Community Development and Housing Corporation’s (SCDHC) Financial Opportunity Center help families become financially literate, develop spending plans, and learn how to access and manage credit. Richmond City’s Cooperative Extensions agent and Virginia Tech researchers are using data provided by the city combined with state and federal sources of data to improve their understanding of who the city is serving, including their spending habits and whether they have enough resources to manage. The team is creating data-driven insights with the goal to improve the financial and housing stability of these families and the city.

Local Workforce
Characterizing Local Workforce and Employment Networks in Fairfax County

Fairfax County’s Economic Development Authority wants to capture the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local employment and to characterize local labor markets to provide insights that could guide economic recovery. Fairfax County is the largest county in Virginia with about 1.2 million people and has one of the highest average incomes in the United States. Despite their wealth, they have a vulnerable population that they want to ensure has equitable access to opportunities and resources. Working with county leadership, University of Virginia researchers developed indicators to identify areas within the count workers at high risk for pandemic-related job and income losses. Using these findings, Fairfax County is developing a recovery plan that considers all residents’ economic well-being, and supports their One Fairfax Equity Policy.

Iowa State Hotlines
Expand the Iowa State University Extension Community Helpline Services Across the State

Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach program provides resources for communities, businesses, and nonprofits through six help and support hotlines: Iowa Concern, Teen Line, Beginning Farmer Center, Iowa 2-1-1, AnswerLine, Iowa Healthy Families, and Hortline. These hotlines let Iowa residents directly contact scientific and educational staff, and access resources. Hotline use has increased dramatically with the onset of COVID-19 and hotline staff have difficulty meeting demand. Iowa State University Extension professionals and university researchers are working with hotline managers to understand the hotline system architecture and uses of the hotline data to develop data-science tools to capture customer service, monitor success, and auto-generate reports. This will allow hotline workers to spend more time helping citizens and less time filling out paperwork.

Iowa Drinking
Identify Communities in Greatest Need of Excessive Alcohol-Prevention Efforts

Iowa ranks in the top 10 among U.S. states for binge drinking. The economic costs of alcohol drinking are estimated to be almost $2 billion per year or $635 per person in Iowa. The Substance Abuse Bureau of the Iowa Department of Public Health wants to understand who is at risk for excessive alcohol use and where they reside in the state so it can better target intervention dollars to reduce high-risk alcohol use. Iowa State University Extension professionals and researchers are developing interactive maps and analytic tools to identify where additional prevention resources are needed to manage alcohol-related problems.

Systems of Care
Pilot ‘Systems of Care’ Data Infrastructure to Inform a Health Information Platform

In Iowa, state agencies often develop programs and policies within institutional silos, making it difficult to support “whole person” and “whole community” responses to problems. To combat this, the state created the Iowa Linkage to Care Advisory Board with representatives from public health, the justice system, higher education, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, workforce development, and economic development. Iowa State University Extension professionals and university researchers are developing interactive data tools and insights to improve public awareness of available resources. These tools will inform the board’s ongoing work to develop a health information platform, with specific focus to the substance use recovery infrastructure in Iowa.

Regulatory Challenges
Regulatory Challenges and Impact on Economic Development in the Eastern Oregon Border Region

Despite its proximity to the rapidly growing Boise, Idaho, metropolitan area, Malheur has a stagnant economy and remains the most impoverished county in Oregon. To foster economic development, the Oregon legislature created the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board. The board is interested in using data to inform their decisions, comparing local (Malheur and Boise) and state (Oregon and Idaho) policies to address three challenges in filling jobs in Malheur: regulations around professional licensure standards; childcare options so parents can work and employers can fill their shifts; and the effectiveness of housing incentive programs. Oregon State University Extension professionals and university researchers are working to acquire datasets that identify where there is a mismatch in resources (skilled labor, childcare, and housing), and ways to address them.

Oregon Wastewater
Forecasting Tools for Cost Analysis of Water and Wastewater Facilities in Small Towns and Cities Statewide

As small communities grow, they need centralized water and wastewater systems, as well as cost-analysis forecasting tools to help guide their choices in developing these systems. Working with the Oregon Association of Water Utilities, Oregon State University Extension professionals and university researchers will use data collected by the League of Oregon Cities to address these forecasting needs. They are discovering and profiling additional sources to fill in missing data; and will identify the key variables influencing facility capital and operating costs to develop forecasting tools for cost analysis of water and wastewater facilities in Oregon’s small towns and cities. Unlike research that looks mainly at the capital costs of plants, the researchers plan to do a comprehensive assessment of costs, including the laying of water mains, collection and distribution, and plant operation and construction.

Oregon Water Quality
Water Quality Requirements for Fresh Produce Growers

Most farms have little control over the quality of the water that they use, including levels of chemical and microbial contamination, and strategies used by treatment plants to mitigate poor water quality. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety Rule provides mitigation options including the simplest approach of applying an extended interval for irrigation-to-harvest. However, for much of Oregon’s produce, this is not a viable option since rainfall is rare during the summer months and crops need regular watering for produce to remain attractive to consumers. Oregon’s specialty crop industries need support to ensure their compliance with the FDA’s produce rule by access to real-time information about water quality at various stages during production. Oregon State Extension professionals and university researchers are evaluating historical water quality data from the Tualatin River and the Treasure Valley area to put the current water quality criteria regarding microbial contamination into context with the rule requirements for clean produce. Using their findings, they will work with farmers in these regions to ensure adherence to the produce rule, which will help them stay profitable by minimizing water costs and losses due to fines or rejected shipments of produce.

Economic Mobility Baseline
Creating an Economic Mobility Baseline for the South Wasco County Area

South Wasco County, located in the Oregon’s north-central region, experienced significant economic decline in the 1980s, driven largely by the loss of the timber industry. This was followed by the closure of schools, consolidation of students from school districts, and an out-migration of residents from the area. Together, these factors disrupted economic stability, community health, and quality of life. Working together, the regional Cooperative Extension professional, an NGO coordinating stakeholder from the South Wasco Alliance, and University of Virginia researchers are constructing economic mobility indicators focused on local and regional food systems, tourism, and light manufacturing to support local decision-making.

Oregon Dam Water
Impacts of Dam Water Release Policy on Deschutes River Health and the city of Maupin

Much of the economic engine of Maupin, Oregon and the surrounding community is based on Deschutes River tourism, drawing domestic and international visitors. In recent years, water flow and use of the river have been altered because of changes in operation of the Pelton-Round Butte dam and hydro system, which has led to changes in the river’s flow, temperature, and chemistry. Concurrent with these changes is a perceived decline in the natural productivity of the river, a decline in catch rates for fishers, and a decline in tourism dollars flowing to the region. To help advise water and natural resource management of this river system, Oregon State University Extension professionals and university researchers are creating data science insights that incorporate data from Portland General Electric, the Deschutes River Alliance, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to identify whether trends in fish abundance are the result of local effects native to the Deschutes River system itself or are more regional in nature, occurring across the broader Columbia River landscape.

Barriers to work
Connectivity Infrastructure as Barrier to Remote Work, Education, and Mental Health Care

Three measures of connectivity infrastructure are created to highlight potential barriers to remote work, education, and mental health care. These allow cooperative extension professionals and policymakers in Virginia, Iowa, and Oregon to make informed decisions about interventions and resource allocation based on conditions in their counties.

Impact on College Students
COVID-19 Impact on High School Seniors and College Students

The 2019-2020 high school seniors and college students have ended their final year being confined to their homes, taking classes and tests online, and are now facing disruptions in their post-secondary education. Across Virginia and Iowa when and how will colleges start and who will be able to afford it?