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Measure of America Releases New State Study

A Portrait of California 2014–2015: California Human Development Report

The latest in Measure of America’s series of US human development reports, A Portrait of California 2014–2015 measures well-being and access to opportunity for residents across the Golden State using the American Human Development Index, a composite measure of health, education, and earnings adapted from the Human Development Index developed at the United Nations and informed by Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach. Coauthored by MOA codirectors Kristen Lewis and Sarah Burd-Sharps, with a foreword by Toni Atkins, speaker of the California State Assembly, the report was launched at public events in Los Angeles and San Francisco and can now be downloaded as a free PDF or purchased as a bound volume.

This new edition of the California human development report puts a special focus on the state’s children and identifies actions that Californians can take to lock in human development successes today while setting the stage for significant budget savings and improved well-being tomorrow, including ways to reduce disparities, improve the lives of young people and those who care for them, and foster collaboration between advocates, agencies, institutions, and groups with a stake in California’s future. Sarah Burd-Sharps drew on the research to moderate a panel on human resilience after the Great Recession for the Southern California Grantmakers annual conference.

Overall, California outranks the United States in human development. But MOA’s report uncovers that there are in fact five Californias with starkly different levels of well-being, ranging from the thriving one percent to the struggling and disenfranchised, who comprise nearly half the population. For those living in the top and bottom neighborhood clusters, life expectancy at birth differs by nearly twelve years. The income gap is significant for women, who outscore men in health and education but trail in earnings. Latinos struggle the most, according to the index, while Asian Americans fare the best.

In a piece for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the authors offer an overview of their findings and explain how metrics that shed light on the lot of everyday people are more relevant gauges of progress than the purely economic metrics, like GDP, that are a constant focus of attention. Early media engagement includes coverage by Curbed LA, LA Weekly, NBCNews.com, and the Orange County Register. Mississippi’s spot at the bottom of the American Human Development Index was also recently in the news, cited by Al Jazeera America for a story on the role of sports in American society.

In Council News

The Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum’s DRC Affinity Group made two papers available for download: “Analyzing the Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on Congolese Livelihoods,” a detailed study of that legislation’s impact on mining communities in eastern Congo and the extent to which various conflict minerals initiatives have been implemented on the ground, and “Scenarios for the Democratic Republic of Congo,” which analyzes possible succession scenarios after current president Joseph Kabila’s term ends in 2016 [available in English and French].

The China-Africa Knowledge Project Resource Hub published Making Sense of the China-Africa Relationship, a digital collection of think pieces presented at a China-Africa Knowledge Project conference cohosted with Yale University [PDFs available].

In the latest Voices video at Next Generation Social Sciences, “Transforming South African Townships,” Next Gen Africa Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and Doctoral Dissertation Research fellow Madelein Stoffberg (2012 and 2013) discusses her research on architects as potential agents of change in community centers serving townships in Port Elizabeth.

Tune in to the African Peacebuilding Network Podcast series, featuring commentary by academics and practitioners working in the field of African peacebuilding. Recorded at APN conferences, meetings, and workshops, the ongoing series seeks to map emerging challenges, respond to knowledge and policy gaps, and connect peacebuilding conversations within Africa to those in other parts of the world.

African Peacebuilding Network director Cyril Obi coauthored a chapter on “Nigeria and the Biafran War of Secession,” with Godwin Onuoha of South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council, for the recent Routledge volume Self-Determination and Secession in Africa: The Post-colonial State, and contributed “Oil and Conflict in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region: Between the Barrel and the Trigger” to the Extractive Industries and Society, a new journal providing a platform for experts from academia, government, the NGO community, and industry to explore key issues in the mining, oil, and gas economies.

In a piece for the National Interest, Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project director Leon Sigal counseled that the key to denuclearization for insecure states is gradual reconciliation with Washington: “Nuclear Negotiations: Applying North Korea Lessons to Iran.”

Seteney Shami, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program and the InterAsia Program, commented on the short- and long-term challenges for research and development of academic disciplines in the Arab world for an Al-Fanar Media article: “Arab Uprisings Echo in the Social Sciences.”

The InterAsia Program cosponsored a two-day conference at the University of Oregon that explored the changing relations between China and its neighbors: “China in Asia: Historical Connections and Contemporary Engagement.” The conference was organized by Transregional Research Postdoctoral fellow Xiaobo Su (2013) and included presentations by a number of fellows from the same cohort.

InterAsia Partnership steering committee member Prasenjit Duara authored the inaugural volume in a Cambridge University Press series on Asian Connections, The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future, which was edited by InterAsian Connections Conference Series participants Tim Harper, Engseng Ho, and Sunil Amrith. Steering committee member Helen F. Siu coedited Asia Inside Out: Changing Times, a survey of unnoticed moments that have redefined Asia over the past five centuries, now available from Harvard University Press.

Findings from the Education Research Program’s latest publication, Aspiring Adults Adrift, framed a Chronicle of Higher Education article about the rise of outcome-based standards at colleges and universities: “Now, Everything Has a Learning Outcome.” Coauthor and former program director Richard Arum led a seminar about the book hosted by New York University’s Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy. The preceding volume from the program’s Collegiate Learning Assessment Longitudinal Study project, Academically Adrift, had a starring role in the documentary film Ivory Tower, which had its global television premiere on CNN.

The American Academy of Religion’s annual conference featured a panel on “New Media, New Audiences: Making the Study of Religion Online,” a product of work commissioned by the Program on Religion and the Public Sphere.

New Directions in the Study of Prayer grantee Peter Manseau (2012) reflected on issues surrounding a recent meeting of Catholic bishops at the Vatican in an op-ed for the New York Times: What Is a Catholic Family?” Fellow grantee Elizabeth McAlister (2012) wrote for the Los Angeles Times on secular logic and imprecatory prayer: “They’re Praying for the Worst. Is That Wrong?

Drugs, Security and Democracy fellow Kevin Edmonds (2014) called on Caribbean governments to ensure sufficient regulation with ganja legalization in a post for the North American Congress on Latin America blog The Other Side of Paradise: “Race, Class, and Cannabis in the Caribbean.”

International Dissertation Research Fellowship fellow Kasia Paprocki (2013) coauthored a Food First backgrounder,Brackish Waters and Salted Lands: The Social Cost of Shrimp in Bangladesh” [PDF], based on her fellowship research.

From Our Forums

On the Radar at Kujenga Amani, Amy Niang pinpoints the collective anger that led the Burkinabé people to recover their voice, and Tarila Marclint Ebiede warns of current and emerging security threats in a post-amnesty Niger Delta. In the latest installment of Vistas, which explores the future of peacebuilding research and practice, Chris Kwaja draws lessons from the rich history of endogenous conflict management in African societies.

At Reverberations, New Directions in the Study of Prayer grantee Fareen Parvez writes with Mariam Awaisi on the study of gender and prayer. The Materiality of Prayer portal extends holiday greetings with an Anderson Blanton piece on early twentieth-century postcards of children praying to Santa. “Why Prayer? A Conference on New Directions in the Study of Prayeris announced for early February in New York [register to attend].

The Immanent Frame features a review by International Dissertation Research Fellowship fellow Etienne Stockland (2014) of Philip C. Almond’s latest book The Devil: A New Biography. The Aggressive Prayers, Curses, and Maledictions series concludes with a piece by Thomas J. Csordas on exorcism and evil. And a range of international scholars join the Book Blog discussion of Thomas Pfau’s exhaustive study Minding the Modern.

On Deadline

African Peacebuilding Network
Applications Due: December 21

Association for Asian Studies–SSRC Dissertation Workshop Series
Applications Due: January 5

Drugs, Security and Democracy Fellowship
Applications Due: March 2