100-Year Gap in Well-Being Between Haves and Have Nots in U.S. Population

New study finds vast differences in quality of life within U.S. population.

ByABC News
April 28, 2010, 3:42 PM

April 28, 2010— -- A new study of America's haves and have nots found that the least fortunate U.S. citizens are an entire century behind their most well-off neighbors in terms of health, education and income.

Vast differences in the American experience are revealed by the study, titled 'A Century Apart' from the American Human Development Project.

The study measures quality of life based on three factors -- health, education and income. Called the Human Development Index (HD Index), scores range from 0 to 10, and the higher the number, the greater the level of well-being.

"We're looking at well-being because in the United States, we know all the time how the economy is doing," said Kristen Lewis, the co-director of the American Human Development Project and co-author of the study. "But what we don't know so well is how people are doing."

The highest level of well-being of any group in the United States -- a 9.26 out of 10 on the HD Index -- was claimed by Asian Americans in New Jersey. With a life expectancy of nearly 91 years and high levels of education, New Jersey's Asian American population is 50 years ahead of most of the country, the study said.

The lowest score of any group -- just 0.92 on the HD Index -- went to South Dakota's Native American population. That number is lower than the U.S. average in 1960.

Nationwide, Asian Americans scored the highest on the index, with a score of 7.54. Whites ranked second at 5.51, followed by Latinos at 4.08, African Americans at 3.77 and Native Americans at 3.21. Asians Americans scored the highest in all three areas -- health, education, and income. In terms of life expectancy, the study found that Latinos ranked ahead of whites with an average life expectancy of 82.8 years. African Americans had the lowest life expectancy, at 73.4 years.