Infographic of the Day: Quality of Life Varies Wildly Across America

The American Human Development Project charts sociological health across the nation. Prognosis: Not good.

If you call Connecticut home, your standard of living and economic opportunities are almost two times better than that of someone in West Virginia. That basic inequality shouldn't be news to any American who's spent a day outside. But rarely has it been put in such a stark visual form.

The images here are screenshots from a sweeping interactive data visualization by Rosten Woo and Zachary Watson for the American Human Development Project. The infographic maps something called the American Human Development Index — a rough, one-stop measurement of quality of life across America based on things like education, life expectancy, and income — and lets you compare it to a raft of other factors, from political activity to local homicide rates. Think of it as a medical chart from the nation's annual physical — one that reveals some serious health problems.

The data here is so rich and vast, we urge you to futz around with it on your own. To give you a taste: Below, we created a map that shows the percentage of registered voters who actually vote. Note the overlap between turnout and the Human Development Index, suggesting a strong link between high standard of living and political participation.

[Voter turnout]

[Human Development Index]

The feature also lets you make grids that compare the states on more than 100 factors. States that scored lowest on the American Human Development Index are shown here:

And states that scored the highest:

Finally, you can create stacking charts — a nice way to visualize instantly how different groups compare to one another. Again, we've got the Human Development Index. That's West Virginia at the bottom and Connecticut on top:

For more, go here.

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4 Comments

  • Don Jarrell

    I agree with David V's comment after many examples of research skewed by political predisposition. However, and more importantly I think, ANY research that ties all residents of any state into one archetype or characteristic is so ridiculous it should embarrass anyone who would document or publish it. Of course these *may* be averages (back to the method question) but, as the saying goes, no one is average.

    This has to be one of the silliest reports FC has ever published.

  • David Feldman

    It is also interesting to note that the map seems to coincide with red vs blue state voting. Looks like voting red is bad for your quality of life.

  • David Vandenbout

    That's my point: without knowledge of how HDI is computed, you can arrive at a lot of bone-headed conclusions.

  • David Vandenbout

    A pretty website without a lot of insight. The Human Development Index (HDI) is given as some measure of "how people are doing", but the way in which it is calculated is not discussed. I downloaded the Excel spreadsheet with all the data and HDI is listed as a static number - the formula for calculating it is not given. It would be interesting to see how the other factors in the spreadsheet affect HDI. For example, how are the number of Army recruits and casualties factored into HDI? How about per-capita educational spending? Too low is bad, but is too high looked upon as good or bad? You can't make any use of HDI unless you know the weighting factors used to calculate it.