Helping close divisions in the US: Insights from the American Well-Being Project

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Editor’s Note:The American Well-Being Project is a joint initiative between scholars at the Brookings Institution and Washington University in St. Louis.

Issues of despair in the United States are diverse, widespread, and politically fueled, ranging from concentrated poverty and crime in cities to the opioid crisis plaguing poor rural towns. Local leaders and actors in disconnected communities need public policy resources and inputs beyond what has traditionally been available.

Scholars at Brookings and Washington University in St. Louis are working together to analyze the issues underlying America’s disaffection and divisions in order to provide policy ideas for a better, more inclusive future. Through on-the-ground community research in Missouri—a microcosm of America’s problems—as well as the application of ongoing policy research, we hope to develop approaches that can tackle factors like lack of access to health care, scarcity of low-skilled jobs, weak education systems, and hollowed-out communities.

Simply put, we are asking how has the American Dream been broken and how can it be restored?


In general, indicators such as economic growth and unemployment rates continue to improve in the U.S., as do some markers of well-being, such as longevity. Yet the aggregate indicators mask inequality of access and outcomes. Such indicators do not account, for example, for the decline in prime age male labor force participation, nor do they reflect the rising numbers of “deaths of despair” due to opioid or other drug overdoses, suicide, and other preventable causes. Such deaths are concentrated among less than college educated, middle-aged whites.

The past few decades have also seen a dramatic increase in the disability rate (the number of disabled Social Security beneficiaries), greater income inequality, and stagnating mobility rates. Different regions have had divergent fortunes, meanwhile, and many, particularly in the heartland where manufacturing has declined, are characterized by “left-behind” populations in poor health and with little hope for the future, and a hollowed out middle-class.

As such, the macro numbers simply do not capture the full picture of inequality, public frustration, and socioeconomic distress. Well-being metrics could be part of the solution in understanding trends among and across subpopulations.

Looking back on recent episodes of political upheaval, previous decades produced clear indicators that should have been seen as red flags for the current crisis. If we can better identify these risk factors in advance, then we can provide appropriate policy recommendations to those working in communities most affected, as well as anticipate the challenges of those populations and places at greatest risk.


As we further explore metrics of well-being, the question will be how to analyze data in a way that is useable and valuable to local leaders. While well-being measures offer interesting insights, they are inherently subjective and focused on mindset rather than quantitative outcomes. Pairing well-being measures with traditional “hard” measures like GDP and employment rates has proven useful in the past.

As shown by research in Peru into the relationship of traditional economic and social measures to perceived well-being, status, identity, and inclusion, hope is a significant factor in determining success. People who are more hopeful tend to have better economic and social outcomes.

Communities should also strive to achieve a balance between hope and realism. Although our research shows that hope is a key determinant of well-being, excessive optimism can easily lead to disappointment.

Personal responsibility for success is also an important factor. To the extent that people blame themselves (or their neighbors) for the current social and economic challenges, pressure for policy responses is lost. Too much blame on individual agency makes a community unwilling to try to make things better through policy. The goal should be to achieve a healthy balance of outlooks, personal responsibility, and realistic understanding of chances for success.

Better indicators of people’s outlooks on life combined with indicators of opportunity and deprivation could help achieve this at the grassroots level. Novel approaches that combine quantitative and qualitative data can inform a range of community efforts. Scholars at Washington University have already taken the lead by using national data from call-in distress services for individuals and families, with the goal of identifying specific geographic information, down to the neighborhood level, on vulnerable areas.

Brookings scholars actively participated with the state of Colorado to implement a comprehensive system for monitoring mobility and opportunity—the Colorado Opportunity project, and in a separate effort, with the city of Santa Monica to design an effort to regularly monitor a range of well-being dimensions.


Now is an opportune moment for local, regional, and state leaders to make positives changes in communities, rather than waiting for action at the federal level. And, given the complex nature of our crisis of divide and desperation, policies must be better targeted to different age, racial, and socioeconomic groups—and their circumstances, something best achieved at the local level.

Even if analyses and practices are adapted for specific geographic regions and demographic groups, local governance challenges will still make implementation difficult to achieve on the ground. Many communities lack local leadership and empowered community organizations. Nongovernmental organizations, state level governments, and even the private sector can help fill the leadership void in communities and support existing local efforts.

The fact is that the issues of despair in America have no one answer, nor does the responsibility fall on a single sector, institution, or group of people. It will take a concerted effort from many stakeholders, focusing on an immense set of challenges that differ from community to community.

Our collaboration between Brookings and Washington University aims to help those taking the lead by providing valuable data, analyses, and policy ideas.


Microsoft Says It’s Close to Solving the Surface Pro 3’s Battery Issue

Microsoft Says It's Close to Solving the Surface Pro 3's Battery Issue


  • Response from Microsoft came regarding a customer query
  • Users have complained about the shorter than expected battery life
  • Microsoft claimed that issue can be solved via software

Last month, Microsoft admitted on its forum that there were some Surface Pro 3 users who were experiencing an issue with the device’s battery life. According to customer complaints, the battery life was shorter than expected on their particular models. Now, Microsoft has claimed that the company is extremely close to solving the issue.

In its initial response to the problem, the Redmond-based company said that the issue was not with the battery cells of the device and could be “addressed via software.” However, the company has still not provided the update to fix the battery issue. Although

Microsoft’s General Manager for Surface Brian Hall replied via Twitter to a query regarding the issue on Tuesday by saying “Stay tuned. We think we got this one but need a little more time to confirm through depth testing.”

Even though Microsoft rolled out an update early last month to improve the battery life on device, it has evidently not brought respite to affected customers.


The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 was launched in May 2014. The tablet comes with a 12.00-inch display with a resolution of 2160 pixels by 1440 pixels. The device powered by quad-core Intel Core i3 processor and it comes with 4GB of RAM. The tablet packs 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded via a microSD card.

Share a screenshot and win Samsung smartphones worth Rs. 90,000 by participating in the #BrowseFaster contest.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3





Front Camera



2160×1440 pixels




Windows 8.1 Pro



Rear Camera


Battery capacity

See full Microsoft Surface Pro 3 specifications
Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 3 Battery, Tablets


Window of Opportunity to Submit Feedback on ESSA to Close Soon

Window of Opportunity to Submit Feedback on ESSA to Close Soon

Educators and organizations alike have until May 25, 2016 to submit feedback to the U.S. Department of Education regarding how it should provide guidance and assistance to states under the new education legislation- the Every Student Succeeds Act. The ED said on its website: “We invite you to share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions on areas or specific new requirements of the ESSA that you think would benefit from such guidance.” “For example, ED seeks input on: ways to expand early learning; strategies to recruit, develop, and retain teachers and leaders (Title II); clarification of fiscal requirements; student support services (Title IV); and other areas where state and local agencies could benefit from additional guidance. In addition, ED plans on developing guidance regarding students in foster care, homeless children and youth, and English Learners (Title III).” Providing feedback is as simple as e-mailing ED at [email protected] with simply the feedback and the sender’s name/affiliated organization. ASCD Is one of the many organizations that has sent its comments to the department and is asking educators in its network to do the same. In its feedback, ASCD urges ED to provide guidance to states on how to best use “Title II dollars be spent on professional development and not on other, unrelated activities in the law.” ” Educators and other school personnel need the maximum resources available for ongoing learning opportunities to enhance their practice and help students reach their full potential.” It is also urged the department to emphasize that educator evaluation systems should be based on multiple components aside from student achievement, a move made especially important because Title II funds are based partly on evaluation scores. Finally, ASCD asks the department to “highlight example tools or surveys for districts that have to undertake a needs assessment for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. Needs assessment requirements should be flexible to allow districts to use or design evaluations that fit their unique communities best.” ASCD is asking educators in its network to submit similar comments to the department. The department will then use the feedback to clarify how it will interpret the law as it goes into effect this August.

FII cash flow close to 3-year high

FII cash flow close to 3-year high

Foreign institutional investors’ (FII) inflow in the Indian market so far this month is the highest single-month investment since February 2013.

According to data from National Securities Depository and Securities and Exchange Board of India, FIIs have put in Rs 20,686 crore ($3.08 billion) thus far in the Indian market during the current month (till March 28).

Read more from our special coverage on “FIIS”

  • How FIIs outsmart domestic investors
  • FIIs pump in over Rs 10,000 crore in March
  • Foreign investors make a strong comeback

According to provisional stock exchange data, they invested another Rs 513 crore in equities on Tuesday (March 29), taking their total net investments to Rs 21,199 crore thus far in the current month with two trading days still left. The benchmark indices – the S&P BSE Sensex and the Nifty 50 – have surged nearly eight per cent in this backdrop.

By comparison, FIIs had invested Rs 22,122 crore ($4.14 billion) in February 2013. In dollar terms, this is the best-ever FII buying for the Indian markets since March 2014, when they bought $3.2 billion (Rs 19,469 crore).

FII cash flow close to 3-year high

This is in sharp contrast to the first two months of 2016 (calendar year) when they had sold an aggregate Rs 19,752 (Rs 11,471 crore in January and Rs 8,281 crore in February) in Indian equities. As a result, the benchmark indices had plunged 12 per cent during this period.

The up move also comes on the back of a hope that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) might cut key rates in the next Monetary Policy review on April 5 given that the Union Budget for 2016-17 stuck to the earlier fiscal deficit target of 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product for FY17.

At the global level, with the US Federal Reserve (US Fed) keeping rates steady in its last review meeting and indicating the likelihood of just two hikes going ahead in CY16, compared to the expectation of four, also aided sentiments.

“With policies of extraordinary monetary accommodation continuing in the EU (European Union) and Japan and the fears of further weakening of yuan; the relentless upward pressure on the US dollar would continue to hurt US’ net exports. Emerging markets including India should rejoice as fears of massive exodus of foreign capital should abate with a more modest increase in the US rate trajectory expected over the medium-term,” suggests Ajay Bodke, CEO and chief portfolio manager at Prabhudas Lilladher.

The road ahead
Going ahead, analysts believe that India will continue to attract FII flows over the long term, as economic fundamentals remain stronger than other emerging market economies. That apart, clarity on the path that the US Fed is likely to follow should keep the current momentum in the equity markets strong, they say.

“The US Fed has narrowed down the divergence between its monetary policy and that European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, which stepped up their bond purchases or quantitative easing. On the other hand, China has repeatedly followed an aggressive monetary easing by cutting interest rates and reserve requirements. With such a large liquidity tap still open, markets are expected to benefit from these moves,” says Vinay Khattar, associate director and head of research at Edelweiss, in a recent co-authored report with Sahil Kapoor and Anand Laddha.

In the immediate term, however, market participants will watch out for the RBI policy meeting on April 5, after which quarterly results will dictate the trend.

“We will watch out for legislative action in the second half of the Budget session, which will have important implications for the market,” adds Dipen Shah, senior vice-president and head of private client group research at Kotak Securities.