Development: US fails to measure up on ‘human index’

Published on The Guardian, by Ashley Seager, July 17, 2008.

Despite spending $230m (£115m) an hour on healthcare, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country. And while it has the second-highest income per head in the world, the United States ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.

These are some of the startling conclusions from a major new report which attempts to explain why the world’s number-one economy has slipped to 12th place – from 2nd in 1990- in terms of human development …

… And while in much of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia, levels of enrolment of three and four-year-olds in pre-school are running at about 75%, in the US it is little more than 50%.

The report not only highlights the differences between the US and other countries, it also picks up on the huge discrepancies between states, the country’s 436 congressional districts and between ethnic groups.

“The Measure of America reveals huge gaps among some groups in our country to access opportunity and reach their potential,” said the report’s co-author, Sarah Burd-Sharps. “Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living.

“For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut” …

… The US also ranks first among the 30 rich countries of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of the number of people in prison, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total population.

It has 5% of the world’s people but 24% of its prisoners. (full text).

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