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The Measure of America, 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience

Kristen Lewis
Sarah Burd-Sharps
FOREWORD BY Jeffrey D. Sachs
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Measure of America, 2010-2011
    Book Description:

    The Measure of America, 2010-2011, is the definitive report on the overall well-being of all Americans. How are Americans doing - compared to one another and compared to the rest of the world? This important, easy-to-understand guide will provide all of the essential information on the current state of America.This fully illustrated report, with over 130 color images, is based on the groundbreaking American Human Development Index, which provides a single measure of the well-being for all Americans, disaggregated by state and congressional district, as well as by race, gender, and ethnicity. The Index rankings of the 50 states and 435 congressional districts reveal huge disparities in the health, education, and living standards of different groups. For example, overall, Connecticut ranked first among states on the 2008-2009 Index, and Mississippi ranked last, suggesting that there is a 30-year gap in human development between the two states. Further, among congressional districts, New York's 14th District, in Manhattan, ranked first, and California's 20th District, near Fresno, ranked last. The average resident of New York's 14th District earned over three times as much as the average resident of California's 20th District, lived over four years longer, and was ten times as likely to have a college degree.The second in the American Human Development Report series, the 2010-2011 edition features a completely updated Index, new findings on the well-being of different racial and ethnic groups from state to state, and a closer look at disparities within major metro areas. It also shines a spotlight on threats to progress and opportunity for some Americans as well as highlighting tested approaches to fosteringresilience among different groups.Using a revelatory framework for explaining the very nature of humanprogress, this report can be used not only as a way to measure America but also to build upon past policy successes, protect the progress made over the last half century from new risks, and create an infrastructure of opportunity that can serve a new generation of Americans. Beautifully illustrated with stunning four-color graphics that allow for a quick visual understanding of often complex but important issues, The Measure of America is essential reading for all Americans, especially for social scientists, policy makers, and pundits who want to understand where Americans stand today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6505-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Boxes, Figures, Maps, and Tables
    (pp. x-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Jeffrey D. Sachs

    Bravo to the American Human Development team for another breakthrough volume.The Measure of America 2010–2011could not be more timely. As poverty is rising and high unemployment is causing searing pain across society, we need an accurate understanding of America’s diverse and complex conditions. No other publication comes close to this one in documenting and explaining America’s disparate socioeconomic realities, especially the vast differences across regions and social groups and the alarming shortfall of America’s performance compared with other high-income countries.

    The United States today is a country of great and increasing socioeconomic inequality, with unimagined wealth living...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-1)
  6. Key Findings
    (pp. 2-9)

    “You manage what you measure.” Among management consultants, this phrase has become something of a mantra. With the rapid advance in recent years of computerization and digital networks, the capacity of businesses, universities, governments, and other institutions to measure results has grown exponentially. You can see the thesis at work in school districts across the United States, where administrators are now measuring student achievement and adjusting pedagogy and resources on the basis of test results. They are managing what they measure.

    This Human Development Report is the second produced for the United States, following the inaugural 2008–2009 report. It...

  7. INTRODUCTION Human Development in America Today
    (pp. 10-35)

    America’s ability to fulfill its promise as a nation that offers everyone a fair chance relies on broadly shared freedom and opportunity. And today more than ever, raising our standard of living depends upon effective competition in the global marketplace. How are we faring in these two missions?

    For too long, we have looked to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to answer these and other crucial questions, tacitly equating market growth with progress. In December 2009, home foreclosures were still on the rise, and unemployment was holding steady at nearly 10 percent—only the second time since the Great Depression...

  8. CHAPTER 1 What the American Human Development Index Reveals
    (pp. 36-57)

    Gross domestic product (GDP) is a vital measure. Tracking the expansion and contraction of market activity and production tells a crucial part of a nation’s story—but an incomplete one. Complementing GDP with data on the health, education, and income of the typical American along with information about who among us has—or lacks—access to the basic building blocks of opportunity allows for a richer, more comprehensive understanding of how we are faring.

    By using only GDP growth and other strictly economic metrics to gauge societal success, we risk overlooking significant disparities in fundamental areas of human well-being. Without...

  9. CHAPTER 2 A Long and Healthy Life
    (pp. 58-109)

    On March 23, 2010, after a year of bare-knuckled, highly partisan debate, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law requires that all Americans have health insurance by 2014 and forbids insurance companies from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.

    The intensity of the health-care reform debate—in political circles, on cable TV, in town hall meetings, and at workplace water coolers and kitchen tables—testified to Americans’ deep concern about their ability to access affordable, quality care. In a poll commissioned by the American Human Development Project and conducted in October 2009,¹ health insecurity...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Access to Knowledge
    (pp. 110-151)

    Knowledge is a catalyst for a productive life—for surmounting limitations and for developing and realizing a meaningful existence. Mountains of empirical evidence demonstrate the overwhelming influence that access to knowledge commands over other dimensions of human well-being. For individuals, more education is associated with a longer life, better job prospects, and higher income. The advantages conferred by access to knowledge also ripple out from the individual. At the family level, a parent’s educational attainment remains one of the strongest predictors of a child’s success. At the community level, more education correlates to less crime, greater tolerance, and increased civic...

  11. CHAPTER 4 A Decent Standard of Living
    (pp. 152-193)

    The recession that began in the last quarter of 2007 and continued officially through the last quarter of 2009 changed the lives of many and shook the confidence of most, but the financial downturn did not treat all equally. Among those who study labor patterns, one of the most surprising findings was the variation in the recession’s impact on different groups.

    By the final quarter of the recession, 29 million U.S. workers were unemployed or underemployed. Dividing workers by tenths according to income, those with the lowest earnings (annual household incomes below $12,500) had an unemployment rate of 31 percent—...

  12. CONCLUSION Agenda for Action: Reducing Risks, Building Resilience
    (pp. 194-207)

    Hurricanes are indiscriminate in the application of force: flying and falling debris threaten life and limb, trees snap and topple, roads are rendered impassible. But while the storms themselves are indiscriminate, their effects are not. Homes set on higher ground may escape the peak storm surge and resultant flooding even as low-lying areas are inundated. New structures built to code can withstand the winds, while mobile homes are tossed about. Those with cars and credit cards can ride out the storm in hotels a few hours’ drive away; families with generators and a stockpile of basic provisions can return home...

  13. Human Development Indicators
    (pp. 208-269)
  14. References