The State of the USA was cited a year ago by London's Financial Times as a primary example of an international movement to track societal progress using high quality -- and highly accessible -- statistics.
"For much of the postwar period, statisticians have concentrated on dry, macro-economic measures to document the changes going on in societies around the world - changes in gross domestic product and international trade flows, for example," wrote the FT's statistics editor Simon Briscoe in his piece, "A More Humane Way to Measure Progress."
"That was fine for policymakers, for whom economic growth and advances in globalisation were evidence of a job well done. But for ordinary people, measures like these were too detached from their everyday life to have real meaning, and worse, sometimes contradicted their own experience."
Writing during the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2009, Briscoe said, "There is a growing sense that we are not measuring the right things, that what matters is not just macro-economic growth but a more general notion of 'progress'. Central to this is the need to capture more of the changes that affect people in their daily lives - local crime figures, health outcomes and so on - and so to provide information that will have more meaning for them."
He went on to say, "The biggest project coming online in the months ahead is a non-profit called 'The State of the USA.' Its website will 'provide easy access to credible, reliable local and national information as well as a forum that allows Americans to engage on the issues that matter'.
"Leading statisticians have high hopes for this approach," Briscoe reported. "Professor David Hand, president of Britain's Royal Statistical Society, speaks of the 'awesome power"' of statistics and says data will become 'the corner stone of modern civilisation', stripping away layers of mystification and obscurity to reveal truth and improve understanding. Like radar or the microscope, he says, statistics allow us to see things previously invisible to the naked eye."
Howard Parnell is editor and vice president of content and creative for State of the USA.