This morning, Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, released Geographies of Opportunity, a new human development report focusing on U.S. Congressional Districts (114th Congress). This is an important report as it measures well-being in health, education and income nationally which perfectly correlates with United Way's community impact work. Some of the conclusions from the report include:
- A child born today in California District 19 (San Jose and part of Santa Clara County) is expected to live, on average, 84 years. Compare this to Kentucky District 5 (southeastern Kentucky) where a child is expected to live, on average, 73 years.
- Gaps in human development within states tend to be larger than gaps between states. California is among the most unequal and among medium-sized states, Missouri experiences the largest gap between its highest and lowest-scoring districts. New Mexico experiences the largest disparities overall.
- The higher the proportion of foreign-born residents in a congressional district, the longer the district's life expectancy
This latter point is among the most fascintating conclusions from the report. In A Portrait of Calfornia, 2014-2015, Measure of America found that Latinos outlive white populations in California by 3.6 years but foreign-born Latinos outlive their native-born counterparts by 3.2 years. While we don't have a full explanation for this phenomenon, a California Health Interview Survey by University of California, Los Angeles found that Latinos tend to "binge drink slightly less than non-Hispanc whites and have lower smoking rates, both of which can contribute to premature death from heart disease, stroke and cancer." The same survey found that Latino populations have stronger family cohesion and tend to cook more at home, which can significantly increase expected life expectancy. (p.74 of A Portrait of California, 2014-15).
While it is easy to compare disparities within communities, the real strength of human development is the opportunity to strengthen people's well-being and expand their freedoms and opportunities. This report provides us the ability to talk with our neighbors, co-workers and civic leaders about the kind of world we want to live in, and advocate for changes to improve the well-being of those among us. Certainly we can find opportunities in that!
Click here to read Geographies of Opportunity, and download data for your local congressional district.