News From The Field

Coalition Urges Inclusive Economic Indicators

Urban Institute Report Sent to President Obama and Congress

Read the letter to Congress and the Obama Administration from Riane Eisler and Kimberly Otis (PDF Download)

Press Release from the Center for Partnership Studies

To focus our nation on what really matters in today’s economy, a coalition of organizations and individuals representing over 30 million citizens urges the Obama Administration and Congress to adopt the recommendations of the Urban Institute’s report, The State of Society: Measuring Economic Success and Human Well-Being.

The report pays special attention to the still largely ignored, but bellwether, status of the majority of the population: women and children.

Commissioned by the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS), The State of Society report—released today—goes beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure both quality of life and economic success. It summarizes 28 current efforts to develop indicators of levels of health, education, human rights, workplace fairness, poverty, the environment, and other key economic and social measurements. It shows not only that GDP does not measure the well-being of society, but also that many current efforts to provide alternatives still marginalize major segments of the population, including women and children, and do not have breakdowns by race and class.

Studies cited in The State of Society report show a critical link between the status of women and not only children’s welfare but also a society’s general quality of life and economic competitiveness (World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap reports, World Values Surveys, and CPS’ Women, Men, & The Global Quality of Life).

“What is not counted is not valued,” says CPS founder and president Riane Eisler. “Rising GDP camouflages the real condition of people, obscuring high joblessness, the shrinkage of essential social services, and the lack of investment in our nation’s real wealth: our children. Instead of now eliminating the jobs of 300,000 teachers, we need to look at the long-term costs of not investing in our children, especially since the U.S. lags far behind other nations that have made this long-term investment.”

The noted author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics is at the forefront of organizing the call for new indicators that give visibility and value to the work of caring for and educating children that is essential for both our future economic competitiveness and our quality of life.

According to the report’s co-authors Elizabeth T. Boris and Erwin de Leon, the variety and depth of efforts to develop indicators of national well-being that are more inclusive than GDP are a testament to the need and may signal an opening for a national dialogue.

As Eisler notes, inclusive indicators are urgently needed as we move from the industrial to the current knowledge-information-and service age, when investing in what economists call “high quality human capital” must be a top priority. Investment in human capacity development, starting with support for high-quality childhood care, is the key to human well-being and a successful economy. It is also, she notes, essential for women, who are the mass of the world’s poor largely because their work of caring for children and others in families is not counted or adequately supported.

As economists Randy Albelda, Mignon Duffy, and Nancy Folbre write in their University of Massachusetts report, Counting on Care Work: “Care work is not just a cornerstone of our economy – it is a rock-bottom foundation. Care work provides the basis for our human infrastructure, and we need it to navigate through life as surely as we need our roads and bridges.”

The coalition asking Congress and the Obama Administration, particularly the Department of Commerce and the Council of Economic Advisors, to take action in response to the State of Society report, includes leaders of national organizations representing over 30 million citizens, businesses, and civil society groups. Signatories include the National Organization for Women, the National Education Association, the National Associations of Mothers’ Centers, True Child, Green America, United Methodist Church, the Women’s Funding Network, the NoVo Foundation, MomsRising, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, Workforce, Inc. and leaders such as CEO Jeffrey Hollender of Seventh Generation and former U. S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.

The Urban Institute report urges further research and analysis of comprehensive indicator projects and systems combined with efforts to engage a broader conversation on what is feasible and desirable. It recommends the following:

  1. Inclusive indicators of economic health and social well-being that pay particular attention to the status of women, children, the elderly, and racial and other minorities.
  2. Use of The State of Society report to initiate discussion and action toward consensus around indicators that more accurately and comprehensively capture a nation’s economic health and human well-being.

Since Congress has already passed a mandate for a Key National Indicator System as part of the recently adopted health care reform bill (Section 5605 of P.L. 111-148), the Coalition especially urges that marginalized segments of the population, especially women, children, and minorities, be consulted in determining which new measurements will be developed and used. More information on how to sign on to the support letter, or become a grassroots leader advancing a more sustainable and caring economics can be found at Center for Partnership Studies.

Available Spokespersons:

Riane Eisler: 831-624-8337, Kimberly Otis: 202-667-7236