A Century Apart: New Measures of Well-being for U.S. Racial and Ethnic Groups



Our national conversation about race tends to take place in black and white, yet the greatest disparities in human well-being to be found in the U.S. are between Asian Americans in New Jersey and Native Americans in South Dakota. An entire century of human progress separates the worst-off from the best-off groups within the U.S., according to the latest update of the American Human Development (HD) Index.

What’s new in this report?

  • American HD Index scores for racial and ethnic group in each state, using the most recent government data to create a composite measure of progress on health, education, and income indicators. Previous reports have presented scores for racial and ethnic groups for the entire country and within specific states (Mississippi and Louisiana). This is the first time that American HD Index scores have been computed for racial and ethnic groups in each state.
  • Rankings by state, for each major racial and ethnic group, on the American HD Index. The index reveals that the starkest disparities in well-being fall not between blacks and whites, but between Native Americans and Asian Americans. Asian Americans as a group top the rankings, with Asian Americans in New Jersey coming in at number one. If current trends continue, it will take Native Americans in South Dakota an entire century to catch up with where New Jersey Asian Americans are now in terms of life expectancy, educational enrollment and attainment, and median earnings.
  • Analysis of what’s driving the differences in human development outcomes for different groups.
  • Disaggregated data on life expectancy, educational enrollment, educational degree attainment, and median personal earnings, all from the latest official government releases.

Although the numbers tell a sobering tale, this data can be the start of a conversation about where in the country different groups of Americans are thriving – and where others are falling behind – and why. A holistic approach using official statistics paints a picture of today and helps us monitor change for a better tomorrow; as such, the American HD Index can serve as a tool for action.


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