The United Stated Prosperity Index has been developed as a tool in order to help a wide variety of actors contribute to strengthening the pathways from poverty to prosperity across the United States.
The Index will benefit a wide range of users. Political leaders can use it to help shape priorities for a policy agenda to create pathways from poverty to prosperity. Policymakers can use it set specific agendas within their area of control to create prosperity growth. Investors can use it to inform capital allocation, and also to engage with country leaders on what is needed for them to allocate further. Business leaders can use it to identify and communicate the changes they need to improve the business climate and the productive capacity of nations. Philanthropists can use it to identify the areas where they can have the greatest impact – beyond the well-trodden paths. Researchers can use it to complement other datasets to analyze the underlying patterns behind development, and inform the policy community.
Interpreting the Index
For every U.S. state and region, the Index uses the same indicators, and combines them in the same way to create elements and pillars. It is therefore possible to use the Index to compare the relative performance of each state and region for overall prosperity and each of the 11 pillars of prosperity, such as health, education, and social capital, as well as the 48 elements within the pillars, mental health, primary education, and social tolerance.
Making these comparisons will enable the user to explore which aspects of prosperity are more or less prominent within a state or region and how states compare against each other. The higher the ranking, the stronger the performance of that state or region on the pillar or element when compared with a state or region lower down in the rankings. Through the Index, it is also possible to see whether prosperity is strengthening or weakening over time, and what specifically is driving the change.
Using the Index
The data in the Index and analysis contained in the report can be used for a variety of purposes. For example benchmarking performance against peers; in-depth analysis of prosperity at the state level; understanding whether prosperity is improving or weakening over time, and why; identifying the binding constraints to increased prosperity; and informing priorities for state and local agendas.
Where a state is showing a strong or weak performance on prosperity in a pillar or element, it is possible to drill down and identify what particular indicators are driving that trend. This will help identify the policy action needed to strengthen performance. For example, it may be discovered that a state’s poor prosperity rankings are driven by a weak performance in education. Upon further investigation, the Index reveals that this is due to primary education and, in particular, due to markedly low test scores for math. This information can help to target specific areas that need improvement and provide a starting point for what can be done to improve education, and therefore prosperity, in the state.
In addition to being able to compare states and regions in a specific year, the Index also provides data over a 10-year period, so it is possible to assess whether a state has improved or weakened over time. Using the example above, the Index may actually show that primary education test scores for math have declined rapidly in the state over the past 3 years. Discussion with local education officials on the test score decline reveals it coincides with the introduction of a new syllabus that was implemented state wide, thus pointing to the particular area where action would need to be targeted.
While the Prosperity Index provides a holistic picture across many dimensions, as with all such data sources it provides only a partial picture. It needs to be complemented by real-life experience and state-specific information to inform substantive decision-making, but it provides crucial data-driven information into discussions for those that wish to create pathways from poverty to prosperity.