In Flight of the Creative Class, I argued that America was no longer a single country, but two or more divided along the lines of social and economic class. Now, alongside Bill Bishop’s The Big Sort comes a new American Human Development Index, modeled on the landmark UN report. The Independent summarizes some of its key findings.
The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A
30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between
Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New
England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and
education depending on where people live in the US, according to a
report published yesterday.
The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid agency
approach to measuring well-being – more familiar to observers of the
Third World – with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in
global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide
and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is
home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per
cent of the world’s prisoners.
Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered free enterprise is the best way
to lift Americans out of poverty, the report points to a rigged system
that does little to lessen inequalities.
“The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is
woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to
all Americans to build a better life,” the authors said.
Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the
percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved
since the 1970s.
Asian-American males have the best quality of
life and black Americans the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life
expectancy gap between the two groups.
Despite the fact that the US spends roughly $5.2bn (£2.6bn) every day on health care, more per
capita than any other nation in the world, Americans live shorter lives
than citizens of every western European and Nordic country, bar
Using official government statistics, the study points
out that because American schools are funded primarily from local
property taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has
no federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.
“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,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps co-author of the report.
Although the US is one of the most powerful and rich nations in the world, the
study concludes it is “woefully behind when it comes to providing
opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life”.