Measure of America
The Measure of America is a non-partisan, non-profit initiative of the Social Science Research Council that aims to stimulate fact-based dialogue about human development issues in the United States. The project introduced the human development approach to the U.S. through its modified American Human Development Index.
American Human Development Index
The American Human Development (HD) Index is a single measure of well-being and opportunity for the United States that allows for "apples-to-apples" comparisons among regions, states, and congressional districts; between women and men; and among racial and ethnic groups.
The American HD Index is expressed as a number from 0 to 10, and measures the same three basic dimensions (i.e., longevity, access to knowledge, and standard of living) as the standard HD Index as used by the United Nations Development Programme, but uses alternate indicators to better reflect the U.S. context and to maximize use of available data. The American HD Index uses life expectancy calculated from official U.S. government mortality data to measure longevity, a combination of educational attainment and school enrollment to measure knowledge, and median personal earnings to measure standard of living. The scores and rankings of the American Human Development Index are therefore not comparable to those of the global United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index. The purpose of the American Human Development Index is to allow for comparisons within the U.S. - not for comparisons between U.S. population groups to those in other countries.
American Human Development Reports
The American Human Development Report is a biennial report on human well-being in the United States produced by the Measure of America. It follows the human development concept, which refers to the process of expanding the opportunities for individuals to develop to their full potential, by increasing well-being in the arenas of health, education, and income. Similar to the global Human Development Report, published annually by the United Nations Development Programme, and the National Human Development Reports (NHDRs), the American Human Development Reports serve as advocacy tools to spur lively debates and mobilize support for action and change.
The Measure of America, 2008-2009
The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009 was written, compiled, and edited by Sarah Burd-Sharps, Kristen Lewis, and Eduardo Borges Martins, and includes forewords by Amartya Sen and William H. Draper III. The book is the first-ever human development report for a wealthy, developed nation. It introduced the American HD Index disaggregated by state, by congressional district, by racial/ethnic group, and by gender, creating ranked lists for each. Funding was provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Oxfam America, the Social Science Research Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Annenberg Foundation. It was jointly published by the Social Science Research Council and Columbia University Press.
The Measure of America, 2010-2011
The Measure of America, 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience was co-authored by Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis, and includes a foreword by Jeffrey Sachs. The second in the American Human Development Reports series, the 2010-2011 edition features updated Index rankings of the 50 states and 435 congressional districts; reveals huge disparities in the health, education, and the standard of living of different racial and ethnic groups from state to state; and shines a spotlight on disparities within the ten largest metropolitan areas in the country. The report was funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and The Lincy Foundation, and is a joint publication of the Social Science Research Council and New York University Press.
The Measure of America Wins the 2011 International Institute for Information Design Award
In October 2011, The Measure of America Series was selected as the overall category winner in the area of Social Affairs for the Institute for Information Design Award. This project was awarded for having helped policymakers shape crucial policy and fiscal decisions, and in recognition of the positive, tangible impact this project has had on communities across the nation.
American Human Development Index by State, 2008
|Rank||State||Human Development Index|
|3||District of Columbia||6.21|
Source: The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience (NYU Press, 2011). Measure of America calculations using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2008 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics 2007.
State Human Development Reports
A Portrait of Mississippi
Mississippi ranked last among U.S. states on the American Human Development Index in 2008-2009. The Mississippi State Conference NAACP commissioned the Measure of America to apply the methodology of the national report to the state level. A Portrait of Mississippi: Mississippi Human Development Report 2009 was released on January 26, 2009. The report revealed that some groups in the state enjoy well-being levels similar to those in top-ranked Connecticut, while others experience levels of human development typical of the average American nearly a half century ago. The report contains policy recommendations to address disparities by geography, race, and gender.
A Portrait of Louisiana
Louisiana ranked near the bottom of the American Human Development Index, and has gained attention in recent years in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. On September 17, 2009, the Measure of America released A Portrait of Louisiana: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009, the first major research effort into health, education, and income in the state to use post-Katrina data. Among the findings, the report concludes that acute human vulnerability persists, as do profound disparities between certain groups, especially between blacks and whites. The report was commissioned by Oxfam America and the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, with funding from Oxfam America and the Foundation for the Mid South.
A Portrait of California
Released on 17 May 2011, A Portrait of Californiaprovides an in-depth look at the well-being of people living in the largest and most diverse state in America.
The report presents Human Development Index values for the five largest metro areas in the state as well as for eight economic regions and 233 neighborhood and county groups covering the entire state. American HD Index values for each major racial/ethnic group, for women and men, and for both native and foreign-born Californians were calculated using mortality data from the California Department of Public Health and earnings and education data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. Following in the mold of state-level reports on Mississippi and Louisiana, the report makes extensive use of Census Bureau-designated Public Use Microdata Areas (referred to as "neighborhood and county groups"), in order to highlight disparities in well-being at the local level.
Preliminary findings provide evidence that some groups in California experience some of the highest levels of well-being and access to opportunity in the nation—indeed, in the world—while others are facing distressing challenges when it comes to the basic building blocks of opportunity. For instance:
- People in the section of Orange County that runs from Newport Beach to Laguna Hills have a life expectancy of about 88 years—fifteen years longer than life expectancy in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles (about 73 years).
- In the Los Angeles communities of Bel Air, Brentwood, and Pacific Palisades, nearly all adults (97% and higher) have completed high school, whereas in nearby Vernon-Central, only a little more than one-third of all adults have completed this basic educational qualification.
- Median personal annual earnings range from about $15,000 in the Los Angeles neighborhoods around East Adams and Exposition Park to nearly $73,000 in the Santa Clara communities of Cupertino, Saratoga, and Los Gatos.
- Statewide, men have median personal earnings of $34,099, whereas women bring home significantly less: $25,188.
Research from A Portrait of California appeared on billboards all over the state of California in 2012, as part of the Health Happens Here campaign, a community-based health initiative supported by The California Endowment, one of the sponsors of A Portrait of California. These powerful billboards feature estimates of life expectancy at birth for different parts of the state from the Portrait of California report to draw public attention to inequalities in living standards and health outcomes among California residents, thus encouraging policy makers to target and ameliorate these disparities. These same data are also being used in an exhibit at The California Museum which allows visitors to explore the life expectancy in their ZIP code (postal code) and in other ZIP code areas around the state. The exhibit can be explored on-line through the museum's on-line application.
The California state report was supported by the California Community Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Draper Foundation, the California Endowment, The Lincy Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, United Way of California, and the Weingart Foundation.
County Human Development Reports and Thematic Briefs
A Portrait of Marin
Released on 18 January 2012, A Portrait of Marinprovides a thorough investigation of well-being in Marin County, CA and highlights actions that Marinites can take to lock in human development successes today while setting the stage for significant budget savings and improved well-being tomorrow.
Some residents of Marin are enjoying extraordinarily high levels of well-being and access to opportunity, while others are experiencing levels of health, education, and standard of living that prevailed in the nation three decades ago. At the top of the rankings is Ross (HDI: 9.70), with the Canal area of San Rafael scoring the lowest (HDI: 3.18), below that of West Virginia, the lowest ranked state. Rankings are provided for the major racial and ethnic groups, men and women, native- and foreign-born residents, and Marin’s fifty-one census tracts for which there are reliable U.S Census data.
Select findings from the report illustrate these disparities:
- The average Ross resident lives nearly 8 years longer than the average Californian and an astonishing decade longer than the national average.
- While 88 percent of white children are enrolled in preschool, only 47 percent of Latino children are.
- The distribution of income in Marin is exceedingly lopsided; the top fifth of Marin taxpayers take home about 71 percent of the county’s total income. The bottom fifth earns 1.3 percent of the total income.
The Marin County report was commissioned by the Marin Community Foundation (MCF).
Women’s Well-Being: Ranking America’s Top 25 Metro Areas
Released on April 26th, 2012 Women's Well-Being: Ranking America's Top 25 Metro Areas is the first-ever study of women's well-being in urban America using the human development approach. While we often see comparisons between women and men as well as among different groups of men when it comes to earnings and education, less attention is paid to differences among women in the United States. Women living in the top twenty-five metro areas account for a surprisingly large share of the overall U.S. population - one in every five Americans. However, this large swath of the U.S. population is anything but a monolithic group. This analysis shows that the well-being of women living in metropolitan America varies tremendously by place as well as by race, ethnicity, age, and martial status. The study finds that, on the whole, women living in most major metro areas are doing better than the typical American woman. However, not all urban and suburban women have the same choices and opportunities; the study shows how basic indicators in health, education, and income intersect with other important factors, among them race, ethnicity, age, opportunities in the marketplace, and marital status, to form a more complete picture of the critical factors that shape the ability of different groups of women to live freely chosen lives of value. The brief has attracted the attention of the national and international news media including coverage in the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and Io Donna magazine published by Italy's Corriere della Serra newspaper, among others.
Key findings from the brief include:
- Women in Washington D.C. earn the most money (median personal earnings: $37,700), and have the highest levels of education, with an American Human Development Index score of 6.8 (overall U.S. score: 5.03; overall U.S. women’s score: 5.0), better than residents of Connecticut, the state with the highest overall levels of well-being.
- Women in San Francisco, with an American Human Development Index score of 6.72, have the highest life expectancy, 84.5 years.
- In bottom-ranked Riverside-San Bernardino, with an American Human Development Index score of 4.54, one in five adult women never completed high school, and the typical female worker earns about $22,300 a year. Women here can expect to live 81.7 years.
The brief was made possible through the generous support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas
Released on September 13th, 2012 One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas finds that an astonishing one in every seven Americans ages 16 to 24 is neither working nor in school—5.8 million young people in all. As their peers lay the foundation for a productive, fulfilling adulthood, these disconnected youth, often referred to as the 'NEETs' (youth not in education, employment, or training) outside of the United States, find themselves adrift at society’s margins, unmoored from the structures that confer knowledge, skills, identity, and purpose.
The cost is high for affected individuals—and for society as a whole. Lack of attachment to the anchor institutions of school or work at this stage of life can leave scars that last a lifetime, affecting everything from earnings and financial independence to physical and mental health and even marital prospects. And last year alone, youth disconnection cost taxpayers $93.7 billion in government support and lost tax revenue. This brief ranks the country’s 25 largest metropolitan areas as well as the nation’s largest racial and ethnic groups in terms of youth disconnection. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for preventing youth disconnection, including moving beyond the “college-for-all” mantra to provide meaningful support and guidance both to young people aiming for a four-year bachelor’s degree and to those whose interests and career aspirations would be better served by relevant, high-quality career and technical education certificates and associate’s degrees.
The Measure of America also released a short follow-up info sheet on disconnected youth by neighborhood in New York City, where the organization is based. Youth Disconnection In New York City shows that in densely populated New York City, vastly different youth disconnection rates can be found just miles, and sometimes even blocks, apart. In Manhattan’s East Side neighborhoods of Turtle Bay and Stuyvesant Town, only 3.7 percent of young people are disconnected. A relatively short ride uptown on the number 6 subway train away, in the Bronx neighborhoods of Hunts Point Melrose, and Mott Haven, the rate is nearly ten times higher, 35.6 percent.
The brief was made possible through the generous support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
- Measure of America Interactive Maps - Measure of America's acclaimed interactive maps allow visitors to explore over 100 indicators of well-being for different population groups and levels of geography across the United States. Map, compare, and download data for free!
- Measure of America City Explorer - Examine trends in well-being for different race and ethnic groups in America's biggest metropolitan areas using the innovative City Explorer tool.
- Philanthropy In/Sight - Through Philanthropy In/Sight the nation’s leading authority on philanthropy, the Foundation Center, overlays data from The Measure of America onto an extensive database about giving in the U.S. The addition of this economic, social, political, environment and other data helps to match need with grants and to measure whether charitable contributions are actually contributing to tangible improvements in the long-term.
Selected Articles and Other Publications
- "Child well-being in the US: Proposal for the development of a 'Tot's Index' using the human development conceptual framework" chapter in Global Child Poverty and Well-Being: Measurement, concepts, policy and action edited by Alberto Minujin and Shailen Nandy and published in 2012 by The Policy Press.
- "Metrics Matter: A Human Development Approach to Measuring Social Impact" Article by Sarah Burd-Sharps, Patrick Guyer, and Kristen Lewis of the Measure of America for the Community Development Investments Review.
- "The State of the Union is Unequal: 10 Things Presidential Candidates Should Know About Inequality", op-ed by Measure of America Co-Directors Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis (Huffington Post, 13.02.2012)
- "What Happened To Earnings During the Recession?", this short Measure of America research brief examining the impact of the recession on the earnings gap between men and women was featured in a New York Times article titled "Gains Made in Equality of Incomes in Downturn", published on October 1st, 2011.
- "The Supplemental Poverty Measure: A (Small) Step in the Right Direction" op-ed by Measure of America Co-Directors Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis (Huffington Post, 30.11.2011)
- "Could London-style riots happen in New York City?" Article by Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis (The Nation, 30.09.2011)
- "Measuring a Better Life" op-ed by Measure of America Co-Directors Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis on the OECD Better Life Initiative and Index (Huffington Post, 30.11.2011)
- "Twenty Years of Human Development in Six Affluent Countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States" Human Development Research Paper 2010/27, commissioned by the United Nations Development Program, Human Development Research Paper Series.
- Social Science Research Council
- The Measure of America
- The Measure of America: American Human Development Report, 2008-2009
- A Portrait of Mississippi: Mississippi Human Development Report 2009
- A Portrait of Louisiana: Louisiana Human Development Report 2009
- The Measure of America, 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience
- A Portrait of Califormia: California Human Development Report 2011
- A Portrait of Marin: Marin Human Development Report 2012
- Women’s Well-Being: Ranking America’s Top 25 Metro Areas
- One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas