The US is scoring below average on a new index measuring the well-being of the nation.
The index, a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, seeks to go beyond traditional economic indicators to assess how households are really doing and their outlook in life. The new dashboard includes 11 gauges of health, wage growth, education and civic participation, among other measures, down to the county level.
The nation’s well-being scored 4.91 on a scale of 10 in 2021, reflecting poor levels of economic opportunities and household financial resilience, according to the index, which is drawn in part from Census Bureau surveys and the National Center for Health Statistics.
Since the index uses data from 2005 to 2021, it doesn’t capture the recent surge in consumer prices nor the impact from the Federal Reserve’s interest-rates hikes to fight inflation. But it may help shed light on the growing disconnect between the way Americans have been feeling about the economy — poorly — and indicators such as gross domestic product that are showing strong growth.
“We really wanted to have a pretty grounded sense of what’s going on for so-called ordinary people in economic life, and one of the things we heard time and again was that people see the economy as a burden,” Katherine Cramer, co-chair of the academy’s Commission on Reimagining our Economy, said at a presentation last month. “They don’t see it as a system that works for them, they see it as a set of challenges.”