moab, measure of america blog

“Fisher Towers at sunset” by Greg Schaefer. – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

MOAB is a few things. It’s a place in Utah known for views like this one, “Fisher Towers at sunset”, and for some vicious mountain biking. It’s also known in the historical record as a strip of mountainous terrain in Jordan. This is a stretch but we’re gonna do it anyway: introduce our own MOAB, the Measure of America Blog. A pretty decent set of inspirations as we explore the landscape of human well-being in America, tracking the highs and lows… err.. no. Promise, we won’t stretch it too far.

What is Measure of America?

Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), provides easy-to-use yet methodologically sound tools for understanding the distribution of well-being and opportunity in America. Measure of America’s mission is to tell the story of how American people are doing, not just how the economy is doing. We use publicly available U.S. Census data to measure human well-being on a simple 10-point scale.

The concept underlying our work is called Human Development. The late economist Mahbub ul Haq, working with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen developed the idea in response to government reliance on the commonly used measure of gross domestic product (GDP). They demonstrated that not only that GDP was an inadequate proxy for well-being, but also that attaching such outsized importance to it encouraged governments to measure, value, and even do the wrong things.

A New Way To Measure Progress: The Human Development Approach

A New Way To Measure Progress: The Human Development Approach

The resulting Human Development Index, is known as the gold standard for measuring the well-being of large population groups and a proven vehicle for change the world over. The Index was adapted for use in the US as the American Human Development Index. We just call it The HD Index.

For starters to understand how it works, consider this: GDP, or market activity, rose by more than $10 trillion over the past half-century, a nearly five-fold increase. In the same period, the American HD Index value tripled, representing important progress but considerably less than GDP growth.

GDP and Human Development

GDP and Human Development: Important progress on both fronts, but PEOPLE lag considerably.

Income inequality is all over the headlines, but it’s clear that income and other money metrics, such as GDP, only tell a small part of the story. Measure of America brings the whole picture to light in three categories: education, health and the ability to earn a decent living. We then break it down to understand what’s happening in each of those areas and why. Too much to tell in one blog post. A good place to start from here is our signature report: Measure of America.


What Real Inequality Looks Like [Or…Tell Us Where You Were Born And we’ll tell you how long you can expect to live]

“What???” It turns out that where you are born and the unique interplay of education, health and access to earning a decent living can tell a lot about life expectancy. Did you know… The longest living people in the United States are Asian Americans in Baltimore, while those with the shortest life expectancy are African Americans born in Pittsburgh. The gap? 18 years. …Inequality is about much more than income.

MOAB and How You Can Use This Blog

MOAB, the Measure of America Blog is organized into these categories: What We’re Learning; What’s On Tap (upcoming publications); What We’re Reading; (our take on) What’s In The News. We’ll set each of those up for you as well as show you a few ways you can use our research to help move the dialogue forward in ways that can make your community better.