Measuring the Dream for an Equitable and Sustainable Future

  • Katie O’Connell
  • Andrea Young
  • Nisha D. BotchweyEmail author
Part of the Community Quality-of-Life and Well-Being book series (CQLWB)


More than 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, what has become of his call for social, political, and economic equality for African Americans? How do we equip a new generation with knowledge, techniques and strategies of past activists, and assessments of the policies that were implemented and/or defeated in the struggle for justice and equality? How do we measure our progress toward a more just and equal society? The Measuring the Dream (MTD) project informs, enables, and inspires a diverse audience to understand the history of the journey toward a more equal society. To quantify national changes in equity since the 1950s, the project’s MTD Index identifies six arenas in which the struggle for equal justice has taken place and can be objectively traced. Data within each area are cataloged and then combined to calculate a MTD Index score from pre-1950–2016. No single index exists with this set of indicators that provides the scaling and longitudinal framework necessary to assess America’s strive towards prosperity and equality for all. This chapter describes the importance of a national equity measurement, the process to select indicators, the challenges of historical data, and construction of the MTD Index.



We would like to thank Open Society for the grant support of the Measuring the Dream from Brown to Black Lives Matter project.


  1. Atlanta Regional Commission. (2017). Neighborhood statistical area L01 fact sheet. Accessed July 29, 2019.
  2. Atlanta Regional Commission. (2019a). Fulton county fact sheet. Accessed July 29, 2019.
  3. Atlanta Regional Commission. (2019b). Demographic profile: Johns Creek. Accessed July 29, 2019.
  4. Bell, J. E., & Rubin, V. (2007). Why place matters: Building a movement for healthy communities. PolicyLink.Google Scholar
  5. Berube, A. (2018). City and metropolitan income inequality data reveal ups and downs through 2016. Retrieved from
  6. Bonczar, T. P. (2003). Prevalence of imprisonment in the U.S. population, 1974--2001. Retrieved from
  7. Brooke, E. (2007). Bridging the divide: My life. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chappell, M. (2010). The war on welfare: Family, poverty, and politics in modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Multiple chronic conditions. Accessed March 31, 2019.
  10. Coleman, M. G. (2016). At a loss for words: Measuring racial inequality in America. The Review of Black Political Economy, 43(2), 177–192.Google Scholar
  11. Digest of Education Statistics, 2018. (n.d.). Accessed March 31, 2019.
  12. Eibach, R. P., & Ehrlinger, J. (2006). “Keep your eyes on the prize”: Reference points and racial differences in assessing progress toward equality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(1), 66–77. Scholar
  13. Gundersen, C. (2013). Food insecurity is an ongoing national concern. Advances in Nutrition, 4(1), 36–41. Scholar
  14. Hacker, A. (1992). Two nations: black and white, separate, hostile, and unequal. New York City: Simon & Schuste.Google Scholar
  15. Haney, C. (2003). The psychological impact of incarceration: Implications for post-prison adjustment. Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families, and communities, 33, 66.Google Scholar
  16. Hanushek, E. A. (2016). What matters for student achievement. Education Next, 16(2), 1–11.Google Scholar
  17. Herbold, H. (1994). Never a level playing field: Blacks and the GI bill. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 6, 104. Scholar
  18. Hetey, R. C., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2018). The numbers don’t speak for themselves: Racial disparities and the persistence of inequality in the criminal justice system. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(3), 183–187. Scholar
  19. Hetey, R. C., Monin, B., Maitreyi, A., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2016). Data for change: A statistical analysis of police stops, searches, handcuffings, and arrests in Oakland, Calif., 2013–2014. Accessed September 20, 2017.
  20. Jones, C. P., LaVeist, T. A., & Lillie-Blanton, M. (1991). “Race” in the epidemiologic literature: An examination of the American Journal of Epidemiology, 1921–1990. American Journal of Epidemiology, 134(10), 1079–1084. Scholar
  21. Jung, F., & Sunde, U. (2014). Income, inequality, and the stability of democracy—Another look at the Lipset hypothesis. European Journal of Political Economy, 35, 52–74. Scholar
  22. King, M. L. (1963) “I Have a Dream.” Speech presented at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington, D.C. Accessed July 14, 2015.
  23. Levy, H., & Meltzer, D. (2008). The impact of health insurance on health. Annual Review of Public Health, 29(1), 399–409. Scholar
  24. Lowery, W. (2014). Paul Ryan, poverty, dog whistles, and electoral politics. The Washington Post. Accessed July 29, 2019.
  25. Marmot, M. (2005). Social determinants of health inequalities. The lancet, 365(9464), 1099–1104.Google Scholar
  26. Martin, E. (2017). Hidden consequences: The impact of incarceration on dependent children. National Institute of Justice, 278. Accessed May 30, 2018.
  27. Mitchell, B., & Franco, J. (2018). HOLD “redlining” maps: The persistent structure of segregation and economic inequality. Retrieved from
  28. National Research Council. (1995). Modernizing the U.S. Census. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  29. Pew Research Center. (2013). King’s dream remains an elusive goal; Many Americans see racial disparities. Accessed January 15, 2019.
  30. Pew Research Center. (2016). On views of race and inequality, blacks and whites are worlds apart. Accessed January 15, 2019.
  31. Pew Research Center. (2018). The public, the political system and American democracy. Accessed July 30, 2019.
  32. Shipler, D. K. (1997). A country of strangers: Blacks and whites in America. New York City: Random House.Google Scholar
  33. Simpson, S. (n.d.). “The Great Poll Closure” is an initiative of The Leader-ship Conference Education Fund. Accessed February 12, 2019.
  34. The Urban Institute. (n.d.). Nine Charts about Wealth Inequality in America (updated). Accessed March 31, 2019.
  35. Thriving Cities Group. (n.d.). Indicator explorer. Accessed March 31, 2019.
  36. Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2012). Preschools reduce early academic-achievement gaps. Psychological Science, 23(3), 310–319. Scholar
  37. Uggen, C., Larson, R., & Shannon, S. (2016). 6 million lost voters: State-level estimates of felony disenfranchisement, 2016. Accessed 15 January 2019.
  38. United Nations. (1948). The universal declaration of human rights Accessed July 30, 2019.
  39. U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). Census tracts. Accessed July 31, 2019.
  40. Wilkinson, R. G., Pickett, K. E., & De Vogli, R. (2010). Equality, sustainability, and quality of life. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), 341, c5816. Scholar
  41. Wolfe, A. (1998). One nation, after all: What middle-class Americans really think about: God, country, family, racism, welfare, immigration, homosexuality, work, the right, the left, and each other. New York: Viking.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katie O’Connell
    • 1
  • Andrea Young
    • 2
  • Nisha D. Botchwey
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.American Civil Liberties UnionAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations