Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interactive Map: Do We Have "Developing States"?

I encountered something very interesting today while browsing the GOOD site, and as a result, I have been spending quite some time this afternoon playing around with this map feature. I thought many of you might be interested in it, since it seems very relevant to a lot of what we do in American Studies:

It is a map of the United States which rates each state on the Human Development Index (which usually designates developed and developing nations). It is put together by the American Human Development Project of the Social Science Research Council, and compiles data from the past three years separately. The Human Development Index (HDI) takes into account factors like life expectancy, educational attainment, political participation, and median income.

While it is a little strange (and potentially problematic) to designate "developing states" since our standards of living are so vastly different from global standards, it is so interesting to compare the experiences of people living in different geographic regions within the nation.

For instance, I started out by looking at the human development statistics for all people in my home state:

What I found even more fascinating, though, is the capability of the program to recalculate HDI for specific gender and racial groups, and the map's color scheme looks a little different when it represents the measures as calculated for such groups. For instance, here is the map when it represents women (the highest HDI for women is in Washington, DC!) The darker the color of the state, the higher the index.

The information can also be organized by race, or by gender within race. You can also build charts based on certain demographics that interest you (for instance, life expectancy, rate of diabetes and other health indicators, or political participation based on age bracket,) based on what you hope to discover about each state, zip code, or congressional district.

Perhaps I'm a little behind the times in noticing such a useful tool, but I thought I'd pass it along just in case. I could post many more examples, but instead, if I may revisit our Keywords essay for just a moment, sometimes technology is pretty amazing.

1 comment:

Professor Glenn Hendler said...

This is great stuff, Kaylyn! I was just looking at the book version of The Measure of America (which I have in the American Studies office if anyone wants to look at it). NYU Press certainly publishes some extremely useful and practical books (they also publish Keywords for American Cultural Studies, so that wasn't exactly a disinterested opinion).

I expect that I and many other faculty, as well as students,will consult this site to help resolve debates that come up in our class discussion, in which we often find ourselves reaching for basic numbers that illuminate what we're talking about. For instance, I just opened the book to a page that underscores the ongoing drastic gender equality in the U.S.; it is a set of statistics showing that "low-wage positions traditionally held by women virtually always pay less than low-wage occupations dominated by men" and also, on the opposite page, showing that "The United States is the only OECD country with no federally mandated paid maternity leave."