Americans are Smarter, Healthier -- and Making Less Money

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—The smartest, wealthiest and healthiest Americans live in Washington, D.C. That's the conclusion drawn by a unique quality-of-life research report called "Measure of America," a project of the non-profit Social Science Research Council.

The study also revealed that the typical American earned $2,200 less in 2010 than in 2000.

Since 1990 the researchers have issued reports detailing the Human Development (HD) Index, an alternative to prosperity measured strictly by Gross Domestic Product statistics.

"GDP is a useful economic indicator, but it can provide misleading signals when used as a measure of human progress; GDP has tripled over the last 35 years, but the earnings of the typical worker have barely budged," says Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America. "The American Human Development Index measures areas vital to all of us – health, education, and earnings – and moves away from a binary us/them way of looking at advantage and disadvantage, as today's poverty measure does, toward an approach that allows everyone to see themselves along the same continuum."

The research says that while the Great Recession certainly had a negative impact on wages, the trend in declining earnings started well before the financial collapse. From 2000 to 2005, wages stalled or declined in thirty-nine states after four decades of slow but continuous growth.

Asian Americans scored the highest in each of the three components measured by the "Human Development" index: when considered nationally, they live the longest, have the most education, and earn the most.

According to the study, Latinos have the second-longest life span, outliving whites, on average, by nearly four years. African Americans have the shortest lives, but their educational attainment and earnings exceed those of both Latinos and Native Americans.