Human development is defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well-being. Human development is about the real freedom ordinary people have to decide who to be, what to do, and how to live. The Human Development Index was developed as an alternative to simple money metrics. It is an easy-to-understand numerical measure made up of what most people believe are the very basic ingredients of human well-being: health, education, and income. The first Human Development Index was presented in 1990, and it has been an annual feature of every Human Development Report since, ranking virtually every country in the world.

Measure of America created a modified American Human Development Index and published the first-ever human development report for a wealthy, developed nation in 2008. The American HD Index measures the same three basic dimensions as the standard HD Index, but it uses different indicators to better reflect the U.S. context and to maximize use of available data. For example, while the standard index measures access to knowledge using the average number of years that students spend in school, we have chosen instead to use educational attainment, a more demanding indicator.

Since 2008, Measure of America has published numerous human development reports not just for the United States, but also for a number of states, counties and cities in partnership with local stakeholders.