Stop five men and five women on the street outside an elementary school and ask them the shoe size of their youngest child, or the phone number of that child’s pediatrician. Odds are, the women will know both, the men neither. Much ink is being spilled lately to probe the findings of the University of Pennsylvania study on “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” which found that women today are unhappier than women were in the past – and also less happy than men are. Our research on human development offers a few clues.
As often happens, the just-completed Pittsburgh G-20 meeting ended with admirable pronouncements, among them, the “responsibility to invest in people by providing education, job training, decent work conditions, health care…and to fight poverty, discrimination, and all forms of social exclusion”. But with the near-exclusive use of GDP growth as the central measure of societal success, we risk falling short of these lofty goals by a long shot.
GDP an Inaccurate Measure of Stark Disparities in United States, Fails to Show Whole Picture in Louisiana
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Mississippi and Louisiana four years ago, extreme weather and acute human vulnerability met head-on with tragic results. Long-standing gaps in the well-being of different groups of Gulf coast residents were suddenly everywhere in evidence – on rooftops, on I-10 overpasses, and on TV screens across the country. Many were stunned by what they saw. They should not have been. The problems of social exclusion, residential segregation, and human poverty that Katrina brought to light hide in plain sight in every U.S. state.
Recent Economix posts have referred to the work of the American Human Development Project in discussions centering on the value of the human development index. The folks at Economix have kindly given us an opportunity to share some of our findings.
A new tool that our organization, the American Human Development Project, developed with United Way illustrates in very concrete terms the nature and extent of the costs we all pay for the terrible inequities that characterize our educational system — the Common Good ForecasterTM. This online web tool uses the most recent official data available on U.S. states and counties to put a human face on the effects of decisions we make as a society. It offers a snapshot of educational outcomes in our communities today and paints a picture of a different tomorrow.
At the American Human Development Project, 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 New York Times online opinion page today ran a piece called “Michelle Obama’s Balancing Act” about Mrs. Obama’s decision to champion the issue of work-life balance. One way the First Lady might use her bully pulpit is to bring to the attention of American businesses, workers and policy-makers the ways in which other countries help moms and dads balance their jobs at home and their jobs at work. Where does the U.S. stand in comparison to its peer nations?
First up is Mayor Bloomberg’s recent announcement of a new way to measure poverty in New York City. Using the new Bloomberg gauge, 23 percent of New Yorkers are classified as poor; under the standard federal poverty measure, 19 percent are. What accounts for the difference?
Our aim with the American Human Development Project is to introduce to our own country an international approach and tool for measuring human well-being that we’ve seen used around the world with great success – the human development approach and the human development index. Human development is, in the words of Amartya Sen, about “advancing the richness of human life” and expanding the opportunities, choices, and freedoms of ordinary people. With our book, The Measure of America, and this website, we hope to stimulate fact-based public dialogue and debate about human development here at home.