American Human Development Project Co-Directors Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis joined Urban Institute’s Eugene Steuerle for a discussion of the newly released Human Development Index report at the New America Foundation on Thursday, March 31, 2011. The Index, entitled The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience, is an easy-to-understand measure of health, education, and income that ranks the 50 states, 435 congressional districts and the nation's main racial/ethnic groups by how well they are doing in the wake of the Great Recession. The Human Development Index offers an alternative to the GDP as a metric for development in the United States, switching the focus from strictly income poverty to human poverty.
The findings from the report are really quite remarkable. From 1960 to 2008, life expectancy has increased by 9 years, the percentage of Americans with a high school diploma has doubled and median earnings have actually stalled. What is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the report is the disparity in these performance indices between regions and ethnic groups. For example, a typical Asian American in New Jersey lives 26 years longer, is 11 times more likely to hold a graduate degree, and earns $33,000 more per year than a typical Native American in South Dakota. Even within metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, the ethnic discrepancies are startling. An Asian American in the city lives nearly 18 years longer, is three times more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree, and earns almost twice as much as an African American in the same city.
For some more of the fascinating data and analysis, visit the organization’s website at www.measureofamerica.org, a website replete with publication information and interactive maps. Also, check out the video below to see a more complete overview of the project and its findings.