How Americans are doing compared to other Americans is key to understanding the nation's progress. But knowing how the nation compares internationally can be just as important.
If another developed nation has lower health care costs, but citizens with longer life spans and less disease, for example, people may want to look at, analyze and discuss the data to discover the reasons why.
In an effort to support the collection of quality international data on a wide range of issues, the State of the USA has gone beyond American borders to join an international project run by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Called "The Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies," the initiative was established in July of 2008 with the aim of creating a clearinghouse for the exchange of best practices in measuring progress. It is very difficult to measure global poverty levels, for instance, if every nation defines poverty in a different way.
While the OECD is primarily an organization whose member nations focus on supporting a working market economy, it also hosts projects that explore measures outside of (but often overlapping with) the economic framework. For "Measuring the Progress of Societies" the mission is to develop a system of data collection for social and environmental, as well as economic, measures of progress.
SUSA's role in this project is as correspondent - part of a network of organizations that collaborate and compare initiatives so as to learn from each other. The project is part of SUSA's committment to making reliable international data more accessible, understandable and useful.
Suzette Lohmeyer is a staff writer and producer for State of the USA.