Global Human Development

We’re honored that the Globalist—a media, education, and publishing venture that features writings on key economic, political, and cultural issues, has selected The Measure of America among its FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2008. Other works on the list of 10 favorites include Robin Wright’s Middle Eastern Dreams and Shadows, Kishore Mahbubani’s The New Asian Hemisphere, Jeffrey Sachs’ Common Wealth, and others.

The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 presents a dynamic health-education-earnings measurement that moves beyond the purely economic considerations (e.g. GDP) often used to represent progress in the United States. Shocking gaps exist even between counties in the same state. As depicted in our recently released A Portrait of Mississippi, top-ranked counties (including DeSoto County on the Tennessee border) have a human development level around the current American average, while residents of nearby Panola-Coahoma county group in the Mississippi Delta are over 30 years behind in terms of well-being measures. How then do we define progress, and how do we account for the high degree of variation in educational attainment, life expectancy, access to affordable healthcare, and economic and social opportunities? Further, what can the Human Development Index, used by over 150 other nations to measure their progress, teach us about our policies and well-being?

Modeled on the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) global Human Development Report, The Measure of America aims to place our domestic considerations in a new light. Other national and regional Human Development Reports have had significant coverage and influence. In looking at some impacts of this work, UNDP found that, as a result of a 2002 Human Development Report on the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe, substantial resources have been mobilized for long-term strategies to break the dependency trap and integrate the Roma minority into society. The country report for South Africa of 2003 was similarly accompanied by a strong advocacy campaign targeting national and international policy-makers, scholars, and civil society, with wide media coverage. For Argentina, there are plans to make the 2002 Report, titled “18 Specific Proposals for Human Development” required reading in all schools. In each of these cases, the distribution of the reports has contributed to a change in focus in the debates on poverty, dependency, participation, and development.

Considering the impact Human Development Reports have had on the development agenda, we’re excited to see that a new human-development measure focused on U.S. progress has been recognized as one of many important studies of the past year. In a December 2008 media release, the UNDP announced that its 2009 Human Development Index will examine “migration in the context of demographic changes and trends in both growth and inequality.” And though the American Human Development Project is not affiliated with the United Nations, we’re happy to place this ongoing analysis of America—county, congressional district, state, nation—in the broader context in which we should measure development and human security. Notable also with the Globalist’s inclusion in its list of Edward Alden’s behind-the-scenes investigation of post-9/11 American border control, discussions about global concerns and national concerns continue to be one and the same.


The Measure of America, 2008-2009 Report: Order on Amazon
The Globalist: Favorite Books of 2008