Human development measures represent a more robust measure of population well-being than economic measures alone, such mean income, and thus are better measure of policy success, past, present and future. It's related in spirit to the genuine progress index I've discussed previously, as well as the opportunity maps from the OneRegion report I discussed a few months ago. It also allows us to look at a state or congressional district in terms of development in time. Thus, the authors note, three decades of development separate Connecticut from Mississippi. More broadly, they explain:
Human development is about what ordinary people can do and what they can become, about the liberty they have to exercise real choice in their lives. For most Americans, the last half-century has brought greater freedom, opportunity and well-being. But the American Human Development Index tells us that huge segments of society are being left out. And it offers a tool to hold leaders accountable for investing in an infrastructure of opportunity that better serves the next generation.
Today, Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps have a new book coming out, The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience. There's a truly overwhelming amount of information in this book, I'm only going to be able to give you a small of taste of what it contains here. Let me start with a state-level map of the level of human development in the US today:
As is obvious to the eye, there's a clear correlation between human development and Blue America. In fact, the top 10 states were are all blue in the last election, the bottom 10 all red. A further breakdown of the index into its three components shows a similar pattern, as I discuss on the flip.
The American Human Development Index is calculated from measures of three dimensions:
• A long and healthy life is measured using life expectancy at birth, calculated from mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2005.
• Access to knowledge is measured using two indicators: school enrollment for the population age three and older, and educational degree attainment for the population twenty-five years and older. Both indicators are from the American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2005.
• Decent standard of living is measured using median earnings from the American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2005.
A dimension index number is created for each dimension, using the formula:
Dimension Index = actual value - minimum value × 10
maximum value - minimum value
The three dimension indices are then averaged to get the single number for the Human Development Index.
And here are the maps showing the distribution of levels of development in these three dimensions:
Key findings in the book were:
Key findings of the American Human Development Index: • Americans born today can expect to live 78.6 years on average, nearly nine years longer then in 1960.
• Eighty-five percent of adults have at least a high school education, and overall school enrollment is higher than at any other point in history.
• Once-rapid progress in median earnings of adults since 1960 has slowed to a crawl since 2000.
• Some of the largest gaps in well-being are found within a single city or among population groups living within a few miles of one another.
And broken down by dimension, they were:
A Long and Healthy Life
Key findings of the report and index: • Life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years, on par with Chile, though Chile spends one-tenth what the United States spends on health care.
• In the country as a whole, Asian Americans live, on average, thirteen years longer than African Americans, more than twelve years longer than Native Americans, more than eight years longer than whites, and nearly four years longer than Latinos.
• The eleven states with the shortest life spans are in the South.
• Whites in Washington, DC, live, on average, twelve years longer than African Americans in the same city.
• Life expectancy in Virginia's Eighth Congressional District, in suburban Washington, DC, is a decade longer than life expectancy in West Virginia's Third Congressional District, in the rural southern part of the state.
Access to Knowledge
Key findings of the rep ort and index: • Washington, DC, scores highest on the Education Index developed for this report; 85.8 percent of adult residents are high school graduates, and 26.7 percent have graduate or advanced degrees. Arkansas ranks last, with 82 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively.
• The top five states in the Education Index spent an average of over $14,500 per K-12 pupil. The bottom five spent under $9,000 per pupil.
• In California's Thirtieth Congressional District (Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Malibu), nearly three in five adult residents are college graduates, and more than one in four have advanced degrees. A few miles west [east] in California's District 34 (downtown Los Angeles), only three in one hundred residents have advanced degrees.
• In every ethnic and racial group studied except Asian Americans, women have higher educational attainment and enrollment than men.
• More than 90 percent of white adult women today are high school graduates; more than 40 percent of Latino men are not.
• More than a quarter of high school freshmen do not graduate in four years-if they graduate at all.
A Decent Standard of Living
Key findings of the rep ort and index: • The wealth of the top 1 percent of households rose, on average, 103 percent (to $18.5 million per household) from 1983 to 2007. The poorest 40 percent of households experienced a 63 percent decline in wealth during the same period (to $2,200 per household).
• Washington, DC, has the highest median earnings, at $40,342; Arkansas has the lowest, at $23,471.
• By the end of the 2007-9 recession, unemployment among the bottom tenth of U.S. households was 31 percent, which is higher than unemployment during the worst year of the Great Depression; for households earning $150,000 and over, unemployment was just over 3 percent.
• Between 2005 and 2008, median earnings for men in Michigan fell more than 12 percent-from $39,000 a year to $34,000.
• The wealthiest 20 percent of U.S. households have slightly more than half of the nation's total income. The poorest 20 percent have 3.4 percent of total income.
• The wealthiest congressional district in the United States is NY-14 on Manhattan's East Side, with median earnings of $60,000; the poorest is NY-16, a few subway stops away in the Bronx, with median earnings of $18,000.
Like I said, a whole lot to absorb. But extremely enlightening about what America is really like today.
If you're part of the reality-based community, this book is for you.