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The US Is the Only Wealthy Nation That's Becoming Less Livable: Report

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The United Nations Global Goals call on countries to significantly elevate human wellbeing by 2030 and this new report gives a sense of how countries are faring. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

The world remains a deeply unequal place, and as social progress accelerates in some countries, it’s stalling or even declining in others, according to the nonprofit the Social Progress Imperative.

Over the past four years, the world improved the most in terms of access to water and sanitation and basic nutrition, while social inclusiveness and access to higher education showed the most decline.

On the nonprofit’s latest Social Progress Index, released Thursday, countries were given scores out of 100 based on various measurements that were grouped in three broad categories: basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity.

Take Action: Call on G20 Leaders to Commit to a Fairer Future

Out of 146 countries studied, Norway scored the best, and the Central African Republic scored worst.

If the world average was distilled into a country, then it would fall between Botswana and the Philippines, respectively ranked 90 and 91.

The Philippines, for example, scored poorly on health and wellness, shelter, personal safety, access to higher education, and inclusiveness. In recent years, President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug use has been consistently criticized for perpetuating human rights violations. The country didn’t get a wholly negative review, however, and scored above average on access to nutrition and basic medical care and access to basic knowledge.

Dozens of countries received higher scores compared to four years ago, including Nepal, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Swaziland, Myanmar, and Tanzania, which all improved by the largest margins.

The Gambia, for example, recently announced that it would repeal all laws that discriminate against women after tens of thousands of global citizens took action.

Read More: Gender Equality Is 'Critical' to Human Development, Report Says

Further, many tier 1 countries have achieved excellent standards of livings for the average citizen. Norway’s top score came from nearly perfect scores on access to nutrition and basic health, water and sanitation, basic knowledge, personal rights, and shelter.

All the other tier 1 countries are high-income, showing that gross domestic product and human well-being are linked in a general way, according to the report. The relationship is much more complex, the authors argue, and the clearest sign is Saudi Arabia, which is extremely wealthy, but scores terribly on opportunity metrics.

Only six countries declined during 2014 and 2018 — the US, Yemen, Brazil, Thailand, Turkey, and Mauritania.

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In Yemen, a brutal civil war has put millions of people at risk of hunger and disease. In Turkey, a crackdown on civil society has led to tens of thousands people being jailed for perceived criticism of President Recep Erdogan. In Brazil, meanwhile, social welfare benefits have been gutted in recent years.

The US is the only high-income country in this mix and regressed over the past four years because of declining health standards, access to knowledge, personal safety, inclusiveness, and personal rights.

This analysis echoes similar reports that have found that the US is now a “flawed democracy” and that its levels of extreme poverty call for intervention from the UN.

To explore the data and learn more, go here.