Measuring America: 10 Years and Counting



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Measuring America: 10 Years and Counting,” the latest update to the American Human Development Index by Measure of America (MOA) of the Social Science Research Council, moves beyond the overreliance on GDP as the primary measure of human progress and well-being in the U.S. MOA introduced the American Human Development Index in 2008, using official government data to create a composite rating of overall well-being based on health, education, and income, which enables comparisons over time and across race and ethnicity, place and gender. “Measuring America: 10 Years and Counting” explores trends in American Human Development Index scores over the past decade by race and ethnicity, gender, and U.S. state, revealing the uneven nature of America’s rebound from the 2007 financial crisis.



  • The American Human Development Index for the United States as a whole is now 5.21, an increase of 6.4 percent over its score of 4.89, when it was first calculated in 2008.
  • Women edge out men slightly, scoring 5.23 to men’s 5.20; women have better health and educational outcomes, but men earn more. When the Index was first calculated, men had a higher score than women.
  • Education is the component of the Index that has improved the most over the last decade.

AMERICAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX BY RACE/ ETHNICITY (Native American men are struggling, Latinos are soaring, with strong gains among black women, small improvement for white men)

  • Asian residents have the highest score, followed by whites, Latinos, blacks, and Native Americans. In 2005, black residents had the lowest score; today, Native Americans do.
    • Asians, the top-scoring group a decade ago, also have the highest well-being score today, 7.69.
  • Asian men top the chart with a score of 7.82, followed by Asian women, with a score of 7.31.
    • Whites have the second-highest score, 5.63. Whites also had the second-highest score in 2005.
  • White men score 5.67, white women, 5.58. Although white men still outscore their female counterparts due to the former’s much higher wages, white women’s well-being has improved at a quicker clip over the past decade.
  • White women’s score improved by 10.5 percent, but white men’s score improved by just 3.27 percent—the smallest improvement of any group except for Native American men, whose score actually decreased. So while white men still rank third on the well-being chart—after Asian men and Asian women—the gap between them and white women, black men, black women, Latino men, Latina women, and Native American women has narrowed since 2005.
    • Latinos rank third overall, with a score of 4.59. Latinas have a higher score than their male counterparts, 4.65 compared to 4.37.
    • Blacks rank fourth on the national list with a score of 4.02. The well-being scores of black women and men diverge more than those of any other racial and ethnic group; black women score 4.49 and black men score 3.57.
  • Black women have seen some of the largest well-being gains over the past decade. Their score has increased by 17.5 percent since 2005; only Latinos made faster progress. Black men’s score has also improved, but by much less, 7.1 percent.
    • Native Americans have the lowest score of the country’s major racial and ethnic groups, 3.69. As with black residents, Native Americans see a sharp gender divide. Native American women score 4.00, Native American men, 3.29.
  • While women’s score has increased by 9.5 percent over the last decade, outpacing national improvements, Native American men’s score declined by 7.9 percent since 2005. They are the only group whose well-being score fell over the last decade.
  • Native American men (3.29) and black men (3.57) have well-being scores similar to those that prevailed in the US in the late 1960s.

HEALTH (18-year life expectancy gap between Asian women and black men)

  • Life expectancy in the US is now 79.4 years, an increase of 1.6 years since 2005.
  • American women outlive American men by five years—81.9 as compared to 76.8.
  • Asian women enjoy the longest lives by a huge margin; their life expectancy is an astonishing 90.5 years.
    • An Asian baby girl born in the United States today can expect to live 17.8 years longer than a black baby boy born in the United States today, the largest life expectancy gap by race/ethnicity and gender.
  • White men (76.6), Native American men (73.4), and black men (72.7 years) have the shortest lives.

EDUCATION (Strong gains among women, Latinos)

  • For the nation, the Education Index score increased over half a point, from 4.70 in 2005 to 5.24 in 2016, an 11.6 percent increase.
  • Both women and men’s scores improved over the past decade, but women’s scores increased twice as fast.
  • Women ages 25 and up have become slightly more likely than their male counterparts to have graduated high school and earned bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Girls and young women are now also slightly more likely to be enrolled in school than boys and young men.
  • Among racial and ethnic groups, Asians have the highest Education Index score overall, 7.33. This represents an increase from their 2005 score of 6.72. Asian men outperform Asian women in education, scoring 7.62 as compared to 7.10. Asians are the only group in which men have higher education scores than women. More than half of Asian adults have at least a four-year bachelor’s degree.
  • Although Latinos still have the lowest education scores among the major racial and ethnic groups they have made astonishing progress over the last decade. Their score increased by 45.4 percent, four times greater than the increase in the national score.

INCOME (Only component of the Index to decrease; white women experience biggest gain)

  • Median personal earnings is the only component of the Index to have decreased nationwide over the last ten years.
    • US median earnings were $33,288 in 2005 (converted to 2016 dollars) and $32,024 in 2016.
    • In every racial and ethnic group, men earn more than women, though the size of the gap varies.
  • White women saw an earnings gain of $2,042, the largest boost of any race-gender combination.
  • Asian men’s earnings increased by $1,784, Latina women’s by $1,016, and Latino men by $620.
  • Black women saw their wages decline by $364, and white men saw theirs drop by $1,544.
  • The greatest wage declines, more than $3,300, were experienced by Native American and black men.

AMERICAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX BY STATE (The Northeast is faring the best, Southern states are struggling)

  • Today, the highest American Human Development Index scores are found in Washington, DC (6.92), Massachusetts (6.36), and Connecticut (6.31).
  • The lowest scores are found in Arkansas (4.17), Mississippi (4.05), and West Virginia (3.94).
  • The greatest increases in American HD Index scores occurred in Washington, DC, Wyoming, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Curiously, this list includes both Washington, DC, which ranks first in the country, and Mississippi, which ranked last a decade ago and ranks fiftieth today.
  • Generally speaking, states in the Northeast are faring the best, while Southern states are struggling.
  • Most states are better off today than they were a decade ago; Washington, DC, and 44 states saw increases in their HD Index scores.
  • Six states saw no significant change in their HD Index scores: Michigan, Alaska, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island.

“The decade following the Great Recession was the LatinX decade, with American Human Development Index gains among Latinas and Latinos outpacing all others,” said Kristen Lewis, director of Measure of America. “Measuring America: 10 Years and Counting” reveals that certain groups and places are surging ahead in terms of health, education, and income, the building blocks of a freely chosen life of opportunity and well-being, while others are treading water or falling further behind. These growing gaps in well-being are extremely costly to the U.S. as a whole, hurting our global economic competitiveness and cutting off opportunities for people to develop the capabilities they need to seize opportunities and that we will need as a country to meet the challenges of the global information economy.”


Reflections from our Stakeholders

“The American Human Development Index enables businesses, government, philanthropy and scholars to track inequality by gender, or race and ethnicity, illuminating areas for intervention and areas of improvement, analytic insights that can help everyone prosper. Measuring America: 10 Years and Counting mobilizes social science for the public good, which is the mission of the Council.”

Alondra Nelson, President, Social Science Research Council


“SSRC’s 10th anniversary ‘Measuring America’ report reveals both the need and power of intersectional analyses. We can no longer simply talk in blanket terms about race, ethnicity, class, gender and region since the American Human Index informs us that overall well-being varies at the intersections of multiple identities. The good news is that on average, some people’s lives are improving significantly. The regrettable news is that circumstances are still quite challenging for many others. Our society has much work to do to improve the welfare of its entire populace still; and this informative report provides some direction and necessary considerations.”

Dr. Prudence Carter, Dean, Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley


“A Portrait of New York City paints a rich portrait of a greater metropolis that is, on the whole, thriving, diverse, and befitting of its title as a global city. At the same time, the report reveals differences in human development by micro-location that sometimes rival those between nation-states. Luckily, it also offers a plan of action to improve the outcomes of all New Yorkers while reducing disparities.”

Dalton Conley, the Henry Putnam University Professor in Sociology at Princeton University


“As an executive steering committee member to the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, we have seen how the coalition has benefited from using Measure of America’s data on opportunity youth to inform and focus our efforts in cities, communities, and zip codes facing significant youth disconnections rates. We know that we, alongside our collaborators in the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, have been able to focus our resources and make a significant difference in connecting opportunity youth to employment opportunities with the help of Measure of America’s rigorous research and rich data.”

Virginia Tenpenny, VP, Starbucks Global Social Impact, Executive Steering Committee member, 100,000 Opportunities Initiative


“This newer and smarter way of measuring well-being will allow us to understand how income, health and education all intersect to contribute to whether you and your community experience well-being or live at a great disadvantage. We knew there were grave disparities across the County, but now [with A Portrait of Los Angeles County] we have a more reliable way of geographically pinpointing the areas of greatest need.”

—Sheila Kuehl, LA County Supervisor and Board of Supervisors Chair 


“A Portrait of New York City is exactly the type of local data-driven research that policy-makers and Community Board members need in order to make sense of complex demographic trends and make informed decisions to improve the life prospects of all New York City residents.”

Gale A. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President

“Ten years ago, as then Counsel to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, I was first introduced to the first Measure of America National Report. I was intrigued and grateful then, as I am now, with the compilation of information that underpinned the state of our society with statistics that mattered. Information that accurately tells the stories about our health, education and well-being matter the most to us as policy makers and grant makers as we seek to steer resources to measurably improve the lives of our communities and our nation. The Measure of America continues to be a go to resource for every US policy and grant maker.”

Christopher G. Oechsli, President & CEO, The Atlantic Philanthropies


“We knew the goal of our Reconnecting Youth Campaign – increasing federal funding for Opportunity Youth to provide one million reconnection opportunities per year—would be hard to achieve. So when we learned from the Congressional Management Foundation that 91 percent of congressional staff say it is helpful for advocacy organizations to give members of congress information about the impact that a bill would have on their district and state, yet only 9 percent say they frequently receive such information, we saw an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Using data from Measure of America on the number of opportunity youth in each congressional district, we were able to provide members of congress detailed information about how increased funding would help young people in their specific district. The results: compared to FY17 levels, Congress invested $121M more in FY18 and $228M more in FY19. We, and the opportunity youth served, owe Measure of America a debt of gratitude for the important role they played in our campaign.”

Thaddeus Ferber, VP, Forum for Youth Investment


“[A Portrait of New York City] from Measure of America brilliantly articulates the stark, profound, and disparate realities faced by New Yorkers depending on race, ethnicity, and neighborhood. The report also helps us understand that in order to have a New York City we can all be proud of we must work strategically and collectively to solve our most urgent problems.”

Sheena Wright, President & CEO, United Way of New York City


“‘Two Futures’ brings into focus the long-term struggles of a segment of the population that hasn’t received nearly enough attention: young people who lose a connection to two core institutions, the education system and the labor market, in the period of early adulthood. The report provides a warning signal that if we don’t pay closer attention to this crucial period of the life course the consequences of disconnection can linger on for decades.”

—Patrick Sharkey, Professor, Chair of Sociology Department New York University



Measuring America: 10 Years and Counting was made possible by the generous support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.