Print this page

Blog: A Real Measure of Our Wellbeing

Nov 12, 2010 | By Andrea Pascual

Economic inequality can’t be ignored anymore. It is the topic of the month as everyone desperately hopes for change in the upcoming year. Since the beginning of November, everywhere I turn someone has written on inequality. This month’s Time Magazine features an article titled “How to Restore the American Dream.” On November 4th my colleague Casey Schoenenberger wrote in her NETWORK blog, “For the first time in America, parents believe that this dream has fallen out of reach.” New York Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof wrote on November 6th,“You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality.” Senior writer for Slate Magazine Timothy Noah has been praised for his excellent series on inequality, “The Great Divergence.” He writes at the end of his introduction that “people who say we don’t need to worry about income inequality (there aren’t many of them) are wrong”.

With all the news around the subject of inequality I wanted facts. Yesterday, November 11, I attended a presentation by the American Human Development Project. The panelists (Kristen Lewis, Sarah Burd-Sharps, David Brancaccio, Candy Hill and Ron Haskins) introduced the study, The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience by Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis. Their study gives the answers to these questions:

How is opportunity distributed in America? Are we falling behind other affluent democracies? Which groups are surging ahead, and which face the greatest risks? Which congressional districts enjoy the highest and lowest levels of wellbeing?

This is just want I needed! Rather than simply looking at GDP, The Measure of America uses an alternative method to measure the progress of our nation. GDP is just a number; it’s doesn’t assess the well being of a population. Their measurement does. It is called the Human Development Index (HDI). By assessing three aspects of development—a long healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living—they are able to calculate the human development index. The health index, education index and income index are ranked on a scale from 0 to 10. Their scores combined and divided by three makes up the HDI. A higher score means more progress. Their study looks at the nation as whole, by state and by congressional district. They also disaggregate the results by gender,