Well-Being & Assets Indices

a Simpler Metric

The five dimensions measured by the MDI cover a broad range of experiences in middle childhood. Some of the included measures ask children about themselves – their thoughts, feelings and self-perceptions. Other measures ask children about the environments and relationships they interact with on a daily basis. The data provided by children on all of these measures is analyzed and made available to you through the school district and community reports released each year, and is worth digging into.


To help you grasp how this all works, and to share that knowledge easily with others, the MDI also provides two useful snapshots: the Well-Being Index shows you how kids are doing across several key measures and the Assets Index reveals the strength of the relational and environmental assets supporting kids’ well-being in your school or community.

The Well-Being Index

The Well-Being Index combines 5 measures that best predict overall well-being in the middle years: Optimism, Self-Esteem, Happiness, Absence of Sadness, and General Health. These combined scores assign children into one of three categories: Low Well-Being, Medium-to-High Well-Being, and Thriving. See theTechnical Guide for additional detail on how these indices are compiled.

On the MDI, children who are reporting positive responses on at least four of the five measures of well-being are considered to have high well-being. In addition, children in this category are reporting no low scores across these measures. These children are frequently demonstrating the characteristics of a thriving child.

Medium to High Well-Being
Children reporting positive responses on fewer than four measures and neutral responses (e.g. ‘neither agree or disagree) on the remainder are scored in the Medium to High Well-Being category. These children also report no negative scores on any of the five measures included in the index. Children in this category may also demonstrate thriving characteristics, but do so less frequently than children in the Thriving category.

Low Well-Being
Because each of the 5 measures of well-being included in the Index are so critical, our scoring system places children reporting one or more negative responses on the measures in the ‘Low Well-Being’ category. The index, then, can serve as an “early warning system” or “red flag” and shows the percentage of children who are experiencing difficulties in one or more areas of their life that contribute to their overall well-being.

The Assets Index

Assets are resources and influences present in children’s lives such as supportive relationships and enriching activities. The MDI measures five types of assets: Adult Relationships, Peer Relationships, Nutrition and Sleep, After-School Activities and School Experiences.* Assets are considered actionable meaning that schools and communities can their focus efforts in these areas to create the conditions for children to thrive.

This index provides a quick and comprehensive way to see where your school or community is providing best support to children, and to understand how this changes over time. This is one area in which adults perceptions and children’s self-reports may differ considerably, and reminds us that an offering or availability of asset-related resources and services, doesn’t necessarily mean that children feel their presence in their lives.

For each of these critical assets, the index reports the percentage of children who indicate the presence of the asset in their lives. Use this index as a starting point for conversations with children and others to determine how to best invest in supporting their well-being.

* The School Experiences asset data is not visualized as part of the Assets Index to prevent the ranking of individual schools or districts. For more information and data related to School Experiences, please see ‘School Climate’ and ‘Bullying and Victimization’ measures here.

One of the consistent findings of the MDI is that children’s self-reported well-being is related to the number of assets they perceive as being present in their lives. As the number of assets in their lives increases, children are more likely to report higher well-being. Focusing on building assets is a great way for schools, communities, and families to begin working with the MDI.
Learn more about this important relationship in this short video.