Measure of America summer research interns explore human well-being

By: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu,  A&S Communications
June 12, 2017

This summer, two interns from the College of Arts & Sciences, Lala Xu ‘18 and Emily Bramhall ‘19, will assist in researching, writing and producing papers and reports on human well-being, freedom and opportunity for the Measure of America project.  

They will benefit from an Engaged Cornell grant, which will provide them with stipends to assist with the costs of living in Brooklyn over the summer.

“This internship gives students who are minors in Inequality Studies the opportunity to develop their quantitative analytic skills, apply what they learned about inequality in their courses, and work for an organization that's bringing social scientific evidence into the public debate about inequality and poverty in America" said Kim Weeden, the Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor of the Social Sciences and director of Cornell’s Center for the Study of Inequality.

Measure of America is an initiative of the Social Science Research Council, an independent, not-for-profit research organization founded in 1923 and based in Brooklyn that nurtures new generations of social scientists, fosters innovative research and mobilizes necessary knowledge on important public issues. Cornell’s Center for the Study of Inequality partnered with the Research Council to arrange the internships.

“I absolutely adored my internship experience last summer,” said Xu, “so much so that I am returning again this summer.”

Much of Measure of America’s work centers on the American Human Development Index, a supplement to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other money metrics, which tells the story of how ordinary Americans are faring. The index — made up of health, education and income indicators — is modeled after the United Nations Human Development Index.

“I had little idea as to how to best apply my skills to public service,” Xu said. “Working at Measure of America showed me how I could use my quantitative skills to create data tools that can be used by government and community organizations to improve their efficacy.”

Measure of America releases reports and interactive mapping tools such as Data2Go.NYC that explore well-being by state, congressional district, county, metro area and census tract, as well as by gender, race and ethnicity and nativity. Measure of America published the first-ever human development report for an affluent country in 2008

“Measure of America is doing great work in shifting from money-centered measure for well-being to human centered ones,” Bramhall said. “These are measures that can give a more in-depth view of how people are actually doing in the United States.”

The work the two interns will be doing will include conducting literature reviews on diverse topics in the social sciences and public policy, writing short texts and longer policy briefs that inform, and may be included in, published reports, participating in statistical research and data collection and contributing to the project’s online communications efforts.

“I look forward to putting my research to work in ways that can help policy makers and community members alike enact real informed change,” Bramhall said. 

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