Policy Documents

The Measure of America 2013–2014

Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps –
June 18, 2013

This document by the Social Science Research Foundation, supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, ranks the states based on which are more given to foster "well-being."  The authors use some data to track earnings, life extectancy, level of education, etc.  All of these categories are turned into an index.  The authors then rank cities and localities, as well as states, based on the index they concoct.  

The authors assert:

At first glance, it would seem that in this era of “big data” policy-makers and regular people alike would have at their fingertips the information they need to understand their world and make it better. Unfortunately, that’s far from the case. Though we know the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and current account balance quarterly, its retail sales and business inventories monthly, and interest rates and stock market numbers daily, we rarely hear critical statistics on our country’s people. How long can a baby born today in Missouri, or New Mexico, or Minnesota expect to live? What’s the share of adults who have completed high school, or college, in Houston as compared to Dallas? What wages and salaries are typical of Latinos in the United States, and how do they compare to those of whites or African Americans? Measure of America’s mission is to highlight and make sense of data points like these and use them to tell the story of how American people—not just the American economy— are doing. We do so using the global gold standard for measuring human well-being, the human development approach and index. 

Human development is about what people can do and be; it is the process of improving people’s well-being and expanding their freedoms and opportunities. 


The authors finally claim that those states engaging in fracking are ripe for poor human development.  Fracking areas not only expose workers to poor working conditions, but also higher violence against women, traffic congestion, higher poverty, and higher rents, among others.  In other words, fracking is dangerous to all communities.