Just How ‘Socially Advanced’ Is the U.S.? You Might Be Surprised

Data from the Social Progress Index 2015. (The Social Progress Imperative)

Although the United States, in the words of columnist Nicholas Kristof, is “the most powerful colossus in the history of the world,” it lags significantly in quality of life for its citizens. In the Social Progress Index 2015 the U.S. does not make the top 10, or even top 15. The global study measured “basic human needs,” “foundations of wellbeing” and opportunity.

Overall, the U.S comes in at 16th, and some indices are particularly startling.

As Kristof writes in The New York Times: “The index ranks the United States 30th in life expectancy, 38th in saving children’s lives, and a humiliating 55th in women surviving childbirth. O.K., we know that we have a high homicide rate, but we’re at risk in other ways as well. We have higher traffic fatality rates than 37 other countries, and higher suicide rates than 80. We also rank 32nd in preventing early marriage, 38th in the equality of our education system, 49th in high school enrollment rates and 87th in cellphone use.”

The top countries in the study are Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand and Canada. Of the 133 countries rated, Central African Republic comes in last, right after Chad and Afghanistan.

“One way of looking at the index,” says Kristof, “is to learn from countries that outperform by having social indicators better than their income levels. By that standard, the biggest stars are Costa Rica and Uruguay, with New Zealand and Rwanda also outperforming.”

In a time of ever-greater economic inequality, it’s worth remembering that everything isn’t just dandy if some Americans are doing extremely well. What counts is how we are doing as a people.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

Roisin Davis
Róisín Davis is a literary agent, writer, and editor based in New…
Roisin Davis

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