America: Less Exceptional Than It Used to Be

The Social Progress Imperative is a U.S.-based nonprofit that produces an annual index of countries, ranked by their social and environmental standing. Well, according to this index, WaPo says, the U.S. is a second-tier nation.

With an overall score of 86.4/100, the United States ranks 18th out of the 180 countries measured, a slot that makes the United States a “second-tier” country, according to the index. “The U.S. has been pretty consistently underperforming given its GDP relative to other developed nations,” Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Imperative, told The Washington Post. “The U.S. has been underperforming for some time now, but what we see now is that the U.S. has basically flatlined on social progress since 2014. “The fact that the U.S. is in the second tier is not the product of one or two administrations, but decades of underinvestment and failure to address the problems people face,” he added.

Well, drat.

The index ranks nations on the basis of 50 major measures as varied as “freedom of expression” and “wastewater treatment.” While second-tier countries generally offer their citizens access to nutrition, sanitation and electricity, they lag behind in measurements for civic engagement, communal cohesion and safety nets.

We’re still exceptional at providing people with education and with basic sanitation needs, liked piped water, the report says. But, seems to me, given Betsy deVos and Flint, we must be heading for third-tier status fast.

The index measures the quality of life for 98 percent of the world’s population. The top of this year’s index — a section labeled “Very High Social Progress” — is dominated by northern European nations, such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, all of which score at least 90. In the second tier, which begins with Belgium at 15, the United States is sandwiched between Japan at 17 and France at 19. Argentina rounds out the section — labeled “High Social Progress” — at 38.

I suppose we can take comfort that we still have it way better than the Argentinians do.  Note that Canada and Australia seem to be doing pretty well, too, according to this map.


The two areas in which the U.S. is under-performing most bigly are “health and wellness” and “tolerance and inclusion.” Here’s what the report says about “health and wellness”:

Italy (84.81) ranks second in the world on Health and Wellness with long life expectancy and a low level of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases and suicides. Japan (79.89, 20th) and France (79.06, 22nd) have the highest and second highest life expectancy (at 60), but Japan ranks 114th on suicide rate and France ranks 106th. The US performs far below countries at the same level of GDP per capita, registering relative weaknesses on all indicators in the component.

And, of course, we’re going to be even less great again if that monstrosity of a Republican health care bill gets passed.

The Social Progress Imperative index creating people were broadly disappointed with the whole world in the area of “tolerance and inclusion,” but said this:

The United States and Canada have both experienced declines in Tolerance and Inclusion due to decreasing religious tolerance and increasing discrimination against minorities. But whereas tolerance for immigrants has also declined in the United States, it has slightly improved in Canada. In the US, Tolerance and Inclusion scores declined significantly due to an increase in anti-Semitic activities and an increase in discrimination against minorities. The US ranks just 23 in the world across this component, placing it behind less prosperous countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Costa Rica.

Ooops — Argentina pulls ahead in this category. Double drat.

Overall, the index considers the U.S. to be “under-performing.” Based on the GDP per capita, there should be a much better qualify of life here than there is.

Okay, try to look surprised. Just try.

Update: Timothy Egan, “Our Fake Democracy