- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

A resident of Hawaii can expect to live, on average, a full eight years longer than a D.C. resident, and men earn more money than women across every ethnic group, according to a new report that examines how Americans are faring.

The report - compiled by the nonpartisan, nonprofit American Human Development Project - aims to track how well, or poorly, the United States is promoting better lives for its residents, a concept termed “human development.”

The report’s authors examined issues of health, income and education and found notable gaps between different states, congressional districts and ethnic groups.

“Our identity as a nation rests on how successfully we are able to create opportunity for all,” said Raymond Offenheiser, president of international development for Oxfam America, a group that helped fund the report.

The United Nations has conducted similar reports in about 150 developing countries, but this is the first time a group has issued one in the United States.

The American Human Development Project was formed in 2006 and is funded by several private groups such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation.

The report’s authors found that, overall, the western United States is the healthiest region, while the Northeast takes first prize in education and income. The Midwest ranks third in all three categories, and the South ranks last.

They also found that average life expectancy in the U.S. has increased by eight years since 1960, and the number of residents with at least a high school diploma has leapt from 41 percent to 84 percent.

Still, people in more than 20 countries live longer than Americans do, and the infant mortality rate in America is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia and Poland. Within U.S. borders, the infant mortality rate ranges from 11.4 infant deaths per 1,000 in the District to 4.7 in Vermont.

Notably, the District ranked high in median earnings and education, and low in life expectancy. Report authors explained that many well-paid, highly educated people live and work in the District for a short time and then leave the area, eventually dying in other states.

Overall, the report’s authors said gaps between rich and poor are growing and action is needed.

“Easing the struggle of middle- and low-income Americans is vital to our country’s future,” they wrote.

The average income for the top fifth of U.S. households in 2006 was $168,170, almost 15 times that of the lowest fifth, which averaged $11,352. Men earn more than women across every ethnic group and white men on average earn more than twice what Latino women earn.

New York’s 14th Congressional District - Manhattan´s East Side - leads the nation for median earnings ($51,000) and Californias 20th Congressional District - Fresno - has the lowest ($17,000).

In the health arena, average life expectancy in Hawaii is 81.7 years, while in the District it’s 73.8 years. Asian women have the highest life expectancy, and black men have the lowest.

Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District, encompassing the southeastern part of the state, is at the bottom, with an average life expectancy of 72.6 years. At the other end of the scale is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District - urban Northern Virginia - whose residents live on average to 82.9 years.

The report’s authors visited congressional offices this week to highlight their findings and apply pressure for change. They plan to do the report every two years.

Eduardo Borges Martins, the report´s statistics director, said a human development report “helps keep governments accountable,” and co-author Sarah Burd-Sharps said its findings “are critical to crafting good solutions.”

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