About the Book
This book is written for people who are skeptical and uneasy when they hear politicians, economists, and reporters tell Americans "You're never had it so good" as they recite lists of leading economic indicators. The Social Health of a Nation, as its subtitle indicates, tell us, "How America is Really Doing." The facts in this book confirm what many American know intuitively - they are not better off now, not with income inequality at its worst level in fifty years, not with more and more Americans dropped from insurance rolls, not with thousands of Americans feeling the effects of corporate downsizing, not with real wages on a long term decline. This book provides the facts to see the rest of the picture, the condition of the American national spirit that can never be revealed by economic indicators alone. It also provides a forceful argument that, without the social side of the picture, Americans are in the dark about the nation's progress.
This book as not an ideological tract, however. It's purpose is portrayal, not prescription. Not everything reported is bad news; an entire chapter is devoted to indicators of improving social performance. Because it does not advocate, for example, a return to big government or any quick-fix solution, this book will be welcomed by readers from all parts of the political spectrum or of no particular political persuasion. It will appeal to concerned individuals from business, government, clergy, and other professions, and to those who represent no interest group. It will also be widely used as supplemental text in a variety of sociology, economics, and political science courses.
The Social Health of the Nation is written by two sociologists, Marc and Luisa Miringoff. Marc is currently the Professor of Social Welfare Policy at Fordham University Graduate Center, and the founder and Director of the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy. Luisa is Professor of Socioogy at Vassar College, where she has served as Department Chair and Director of its Urban Studies Program. Both earned Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago.
Since 1987, Marc has headed a research team to develop the Index of Social Health, a nationally recognized social barometer that has been featured in ten New York Times and four Washington Post articles. This index has commanded increasingly large electronic and print media attention because of its powerful presentation of trends in family life, income, health, housing, child poverty, and other social indicators of everyday life in the United States. The Social Health of the Nation will include the previously unreleased and very newsworthy Index for 1998. But it will contain much more.
Influenced by the effectiveness of the Index of Social Health, in the summer of 1996, the Ford Foundation approached the authors with a plan. Alarmed by a lack of government attention in the United States to monitoring the nation's social health, the Foundation had a vision of creating a book building on the Index of Social Health, to show what is needed to advance this field and deepen its impact. To that end, the Foundation provided financial assistance for the book's development by funding Miringoff's Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy to convene a twenty-five member team, the Working Group on Social Indicators, including nationally known pollster, Daniel Yankelovich, and Director of Research and Vice President of CNN, Judy Milestone. Each member of the Working Group was motivated to improve social reporting in the United States. They came from the media, universities, and government, representing fields as diversse as law, medicine, sociology, and economics.
The vision of the Ford Foundation, with the assistance of this working group, has now become a reality in The Social Health of the Nation, a nine chapter book written by Marc and Marque Luisa Miringoff. This book does show the other side of the Official Portrait of How America is Doing, providing comprehensive coverage of improving, shifting, and worsening social performance. It fills in the blanks after all the economic indicators are posted.
The book contains surprises, the same kind that have been made the yearly release of the Social Index of Health a subject of media attention for twelve years, an index whose 1998 figures will be released exclusively in this book. While some of the indicators will shock, other will give reason for hope, as we see evidence of improved performance in unlikely places. For those whose livelihoods and well-being depend on the social health of the United States, this book provides the information necessary to find creative solutions for improved performance. For students in a wide range of courses this book will become required reading.