About the Report

The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009, produced by the American Human Development Project, is modeled on the United Nations Development Programme’s global Human Development Report, which has provided authoritative analysis and a ranked index for countries around the world for almost two decades. The Measure of America, published by Columbia University Press and The Social Science Research Council, is the first time the human development approach has been applied in the United States or any other industrialized nation. The report features forewords by Nobel laureate and Harvard Professor Amartya Sen and California venture capitalist William H. Draper III.

Using official government statistics and robust peer-reviewed analysis, the American Human Development Report presents human development rankings for U.S. states, congressional districts, and ethnic groups. It reveals where America is today and sets a benchmark for monitoring progress tomorrow. Unlike the many existing measurements used to assess health, education, or income alone, the American Human Development Index (HD Index) combines these factors into one easy-to-understand measurement. This more comprehensive measure allows for a better understanding of the opportunities open to different groups of Americans.

The Human Development Report series advocates a shift away from a sole focus on economic growth as an end in itself and income as the final measure of a person’s well being. This approach considers both income and growth as important means for human progress, but also looks at other things people value that do not show up in growth figures such as a quality education, a long and healthy life, personal safety, a secure livelihood, and a say in decisions that affect one’s life.

The broad purpose of the American Human Development Project and its report is to introduce and champion the human development approach and index and to spur a non-partisan conversation, based on apples-to-apples data, about why such strikingly different results have been achieved. With colorful graphics and accessible language, the report is designed to appeal to a broad audience and to mobilize support for action to address key issues Americans really care about: a quality education, secure livelihoods, decent healthcare, and economic, personal, and community security.

Praise for the Book

“We get in this report not only an evaluation of what the limitations of human development are in the United States, but also how the relative place of America has been slipping in comparison with other countries over recent years. In the skilled hands of Sarah Burd-Sharps, Kristen Lewis, and Eduardo Borges Martins, the contrasts within the country-related to region, race, class, and other important distinctions-receive powerful investigation and exposure. In these growing gaps we can also see one of the most important aspects of the souring of the American Dream, which is so much under discussion today. I do not doubt that The Measure of America will receive the huge attention that it richly deserves.”
from the foreword by Amartya Sen, Harvard University, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

“A rich analysis that will help us forge ahead in creating more economic dynamism, more effective social policies, and an expansion of everyone’s freedom and opportunities.”
William H. Draper, III, former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

“This report shows that the quality of life issues we typically associate with the grossly inadequate social welfare programs of under-resourced countries are problems experienced by a shockingly large portion of the American population-perhaps a growing proportion.”
Pamela B. Walters, Rudy Professor of Sociology at Indiana University, Bloomington