In the News
November 9, 2023

Here is a new way to measure — and compare — Americans’ economic wellbeing

Paul Singer

Women in Massachusetts are better educated than men but still earn less, Black residents lag far behind white residents in most measures of wellness — a gap that has gotten worse since 2005 — and Asian residents in the state generally are doing about as well as white people.

Those findings are according to data released Thursday by the Cambridge-based American Academy of Arts and Sciences, part of a new way to evaluate the nation's economic success collected by the academy's Commission on Reimagining our Economy, or CORE.

Katherine Newman, a member of the commission, told GBH News that the county-level data goes beyond purely economic metrics that have traditionally been used to measure the U.S. economy.

“We have for many, many decades focused on particular metrics that don't really measure how Americans feel about their security or the extent to which they experience economic security,” she said.

Newman, now the provost at the University of California, says part of the power of the CORE Score metric is that the data drills down to the county level. “Most of the metrics we look at are national metrics — national unemployment metrics, for example,” she said. “But there are huge variations that really impact people because people don't live in the nation. They live in a place.”

The academy describes its new dataset as a “wellbeing” score, though it takes in more than health and wealth. The score is made up of 11 different datasets across four categories: economic security (including household spending power and housing costs); economic opportunity (including education and wage growth); health (defined by life expectancy and health insurance coverage); and political voice (measuring voter turnout and civic engagement).

“Wellness has to do with how people feel about their lives, frankly, if they see opportunities for themselves, if they see their current situation as positive, if they feel that they have impact on their community,” said David Oxtoby, the academy’s president. “If they feel that there are possibilities for them in life, that to me is at the center of wellness.”

View full story: WGBH



Commission on Reimagining Our Economy

Katherine J. Cramer, Ann M. Fudge, and Nicholas B. Lemann