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Mapping American Well-Being

How is opportunity distributed in America? Which groups are surging ahead and which face the greatest risks? Which congressional districts enjoy the highest—and lowest—levels of well-being?

These are the questions the American Human Development Index seeks to answer in its latest report: The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience. The index uses government data to measure opportunity: health, knowledge, and standard of living.

With rankings by state, congressional district and racial/ethnic group, the index provides a snapshot of where different groups stand today and sets a benchmark for evaluating progress over time. The study shows that there are enormous disparities across America in the distribution of health, education, and income.

The map below shows overall rankings by state. Use this interactive map to create custom maps by state, district, metro area, and by race within each state including earnings, educational achievement, life expectancy and many more.

American Human Development Index map

» View larger version of the American Human Development Index map

Report Conclusions

Overall Well-Being:

  • The average American today lives nearly nine years longer than an American in 1960, is twice as likely to have graduated from high school, is almost four times as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, and earns nearly twice as much (adjusted for inflation).

  • Maryland has the third highest median earnings of any state, behind Washington, DC, and New Jersey. Yet Maryland ranks thirty-third in life expectancy. More money does not guarantee a longer life.

Material Standard of Living:

  • American women today have higher levels of educational attainment than men and live, on average, five years longer. Yet men earn an average of $11,000 more.

  • Washington, DC, has the highest median earnings, at $40,342; Arkansas has the lowest, at $23,471.

  • The wealthiest congressional district in the United States is District 14 on Manhattan’s East Side, with median personal earnings of $60,000; the poorest is District 16, a few subway stops away in the Bronx, with median personal earnings of $18,000.

  • In the last twenty-five years, the very richest doubled their assets (from an average of $9.2 million to $18.5 million in assets per household), while two in five households lost ground (from an average of $5,600 in assets per household to $2,200).

  • The wealthiest 20 percent of U.S. households have slightly more than half of the nation’s total income. The poorest 20 percent have 3.4 percent of total income.

  • The wealth of the top 1 percent of households rose, on average, 103 percent from 1983 to 2007. Wealth in the poorest 40 percent of households dropped 63 percent during the same period.

  • For every $1 of white net worth, Latinos have 12 cents, and African Americans have 10 cents.


  • Latinos enjoy the second longest life expectancy of any racial or ethnic groups in the U.S. today. They live, on average to 83.5 years. This is nearly five years longer than whites and over eight years longer than African Americans and Native Americans.

  • African American males today live shorter lives than the average American in 1970—four decades ago.

  • A white baby born today in the nation’s capital can expect to live 83.1 years. An African American baby born today in the same city has a life expectancy of 71 years, a dozen years less and about the same as that of the average American baby in the early 1970s.

  • Asian Americans enjoy the longest life expectancy of any racial or ethnic group (87.3 years) in the U.S. today.


  • Eighty-five percent of adults have at least a high school education today, and overall school enrollment is higher than at any other point in American history.

  • In a recent school year, the U.S. spent an average of $900 less per student educating the poorest children, as measured by the number of students per school eligible for reduce-price school lunch, than the wealthiest.

  • More than a quarter of high school freshmen do not graduate in four years—if they graduate at all.

Reprinted with permission from The American Human Development Index

» More: Mapping the Future


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