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What does it mean for conditions to be equitable? Equity is about just and fair inclusion into a society in which all have a fair chance to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential (Policy Link). It means that people are not held back from reaching their potential because of social conditions, systems, and policies that make it difficult to live good lives. Racism, poverty, living in certain neighborhoods, gender, and stigma all can lead to poor well-being outcomes. Communities that are equitable strive to put into place the social conditions, systems, and policies that address these harms in order to allow everyone to contribute to their full potential and help the whole community to flourish.


How does subjective well-being differ by Americans' demographics and social characteristics?

Cantril's Ladder is an overall measure of how someone feels about their life using two simple questions. The first question asks people to rate their lives on a ladder where the bottom in their worst possible life (0) and the top is their best possible life (10). The second question asks them to rate where they think they will be on the ladder in five years. A score of 7 or higher now and 8 or higher in the future on Cantril's ladder puts someone in the "thriving" category, along with half of the US population. A score of 4 or below on both questions puts you in the "suffering" category. Everyone in between is categorized as "struggling."

What this measures: Differences in how people view their life based on demographic factors such as race or place.

Why this matters: Differences in how people in a group experience their life can be due to differences in social conditions. It can also be due to differences between groups in their outlook and resilience. Well-being scores are related to tangible differences in productivity, health, life expectancy and cost. Understanding why some groups might have poorer well-being can help us address injustices that might cause these conditions. Finding groups that are doing better than expected can also help us understand how to improve well-being.

What this relates to: Well-being, life expectancy, nearly every other indicator.

Data source: Gallup. Means (averages) were calculated from raw survey data by LiveStories. Only responses from 0 to 10 were included in calculations.

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How many years of potential life are lost throughout the United States?

What this measures: Both the number of years of potential life lost before the age of 75 and differences in this based on demographic factors. 

Why this matters: Deaths that occur before age 75 are often preventable. Places or groups where many people die early often face hardships that impact their well-being. Learning about differences in preventable death can help prioritize resources to help residents live longer. 

What this relates to: life expectancy, equity, well-being, many leading indicators.

Data source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Health Data Exchange.

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Note: We will bring you additional looks at this data for different groups as that data becomes available.

We encourage you to consider an improvement measure of years of life gained. This can be calculated either by directly multiplying the average life expectancy improvement of what you did with the total population that was helped. In cases where a death has been avoided (eg, when an overdose is prevented), it can also be calculated by subtracting the age at which death was avoided from 75. These can then be added up across your population to get to total years of life gained. 


How does the U.S. high school graduation rate vary by race and ethnicity?

What this measures: Both the percent of students who graduate high school within four years and differences in these rates between different groups. 

Why this matters: Whether someone graduates from high school has lasting effects on their well-being. Students who graduate from high school have better health and life outcomes. They are less likely to have chronic diseases, to be imprisoned or unemployed later in life. They are likely to earn more and live several years longer. Improving high school graduation rates is essential to giving everyone a fair chance at life. 

What this relates to: Median income, employment, juvenile incarceration.

Data source: Department of Education, National Center of Education Statistics.

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How does the Gini Index vary throughout the United States?

What this measures: The Gini Index of Income Inequality, also called the Gini Coefficient, presents income inequality as a scale from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (the most extreme inequality). In a location with a Gini coefficient of 0, every household would have the exact same income. In a place with a coefficient of 1, a single household would own all of the wealth, and everyone else would have nothing.

Why this matters: Income inequality within US communities can have wide health effects. These effects include higher risk of death and poor health. Communities with higher income inequality can also experience a loss of connectedness from one another. 

What this relates to: Community vitality, health outcomes.

Data source: American Community Survey, Table B19083

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Other Interesting Measures


• Relative disparity in poverty rates: Index value 0-1, with 0 being perfect equality, includes white vs. Hispanic & black. Source: Census.


• Relative disparity in unemployment rates between total population and disabled population, higher values reflect more disparity. Source: Census.


• Relative disparity in population with Bachelor's Degree+, index ranges 0-1, with 1 being more disparity, includes white vs. Hispanic & black. Source: Census.


• Relative disparity in pollution exposure, index ranges 0-100, with 100 being more disparity, includes white vs. Hispanic, black & other. Source: EPA.