How Is the U.S. Doing in Overall Social Progress?

The coronavirus pandemic is not over but the U.S. is already steadily recovering from it.  The number of new daily infections is continuing to drop (see chart) and the economy is also recovering well as evidenced by the drop in the unemployment rate to 8.4% in August from 10.2% in July.

As we continue to monitor the above pandemic-related numbers, it is appropriate to turn attention to other important economic and social issues as well.

The Social Progress Imperative (Institute) has just released a new report ranking most of the countries in the world on “quality of life” factors as of the end of 2019.   The U.S. ranks only 28th in the world on its list!  Here are the statistics for the U.S.:

The areas in which the U.S. ranks low (see the attached chart) are:

  • Inclusiveness.  In particular, there is too much discrimination and violence against minorities and too little equality of political power by socioeconomic position.
  • Personal Safety. The U.S. has a high homicide rate, too much “perceived” criminality, and too many traffic deaths.
  • Health and Wellness. Access to quality healthcare is insufficient, life expectancy is too low, and there are too many premature deaths.
  • Environmental Quality. Greenhouse gas emissions are too high and there is not enough biome (environmental community) protection.

My evaluation of this rating.  Several of these ratings are justified.  We have too many homicides (mostly in big cities).  We certainly have a lot of traffic deaths.  Carbon emissions are too high although they are dropping steadily.  Our biome protection is pretty good.
All of the remaining shortcomings in American society, as listed above,  are related either to minorities and/or to poverty.  But there is a strong connection between social and economic progress as shown by the chart below from this same report.


In other words, these social shortcomings will only be reduced as minorities continue to move up the economic ladder.  This requires more personal agency, i.e. more acceptance of personal responsibility for their own welfare, by individual minority citizens.

Conclusion.  The quality of life in the U.S. has some shortcomings but should be rated higher than 28th in the world.  The whole country should not be down-rated because too many minority citizens are not yet experiencing the high quality of life that a large majority of Americans do experience.

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