The results are in: the United States is now officially ranked a second-tier nation according to the 2017 Social Progress Index, an annual report of social and environmental indicators that capture a snapshot of a country’s social progress.
So, what does that actually mean?
It means that the traditionally leading nation lacks “very high social progress,” something first-tier nations have when it comes to social unity, healthcare, civic and environmental issues.
As a matter of fact, the United States came in 18th out of 128 on the list, trailing far behind countries like Spain, Ireland, Canada, and Denmark, which scored the highest.
The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said the US “is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.”
Overall, a large share of the American public admits that Muslims, Latinos, LGBT individuals, and women face a lot of discrimination today as opposed to four years ago, according to the PEW Research Center. Since 2013, discrimination against African Americans has also been on the rise, the PEW study noted.
Several high-profile police shootings of African Americans, the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2016 presidential election campaign have all fueled that rising tension.
Entangled with American social problems and disparities in race, gender, and income is health inequality, according to the Harvard Gazette.
“If you want to observe the problems of poverty and inequality, you don’t need to travel all the way to Malawi. You can go to a rural house in America,” said Ichiro Kawachi, a Harvard professor.
“If you’re born a black man in, let’s say, New Orleans Parish, your average life expectancy is worse than the male average of countries that are much poorer than America,” he added.
In 2017, the average life expectancy in the US is 79 — that’s 53rd in the world according to Geoba, an online global database.
Scholars have said that the problems surrounding health inequality are threefold: disparities in health itself, access to care, and health insurance.
In 2015 alone, the database Healthy People 2020 found that around 120 million people in the US lived in counties that didn’t meet the national air quality standard. As a result, nearly 1 in 10 children and 1 in 12 adults in the nation have asthma.
It’s not all bad news, however.
America still leads the world when it comes to access to higher education, according to the Social Progress Index report. It also demonstrates “high social progress” on issues such as nutrition, water, and sanitation.
Still, the report reflects that the US has a long way to go before it climbs to the top of that list and achieves sustainable development. For now, the world will have to look to Scandinavian countries as role models of social progress.