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A poor child born in Germany, France, Canada, or one of the Nordic countries has a better chance to join the middle class in adulthood than an American child born into similar circumstances.

The U.S. ranks second among 177 countries in per-capita income but 12th on human development, according to the global Human Development Index, published annually by the United Nations Development Programme.

Each of the 11 countries ahead of the U.S. has a lower per-capita income than the U.S., but all perform better on the health and knowledge dimensions.

The U.S. infant mortality rate is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, and Poland.

If the U.S. infant mortality rate were equal to that of first-ranked Sweden, twenty-one thousand more American babies would have lived to celebrate their first birthdays in 2005.

In 98 countries, new mothers have 14 or more weeks of paid maternity leave. The U.S. has no federally mandated paid maternity leave.

The United States ranks second in the world in per-capita income (behind Luxembourg), but thirty-fourth in survival of infants to age one.

The U.S. ranks forty-second in global life expectancy and first among the world’s twenty-five richest countries in the percentage of children living in poverty.

In the 2006 OECD international assessment of fifteen-year-olds, in math, the U.S. came in twenty-fourth, and in science, the U.S. came in seventeenth.

The U.S. incarceration rate is five-to-nine times greater than that of our peer nations.

Those are just a few of the "factoids" culled from the website,  "a nonpartisan, non-profit initiative established to introduce to the United States a well-honed international approach and tool for measuring human well-being: the human development approach and the human development index. The project’s mission is to stimulate fact-based public debate about and political attention to human development issues in the United States and to empower people with an instrument to hold elected officials accountable for progress on issues we all care about: health, education and income."

The initiative is funded by OxFam, the Walter Annenberg Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council.

The UK Independent released a story tonight that branded the results as, simply "shocking"

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.

The saddest part about reading this in the foreign press is the realization that although this information is being thrown in our faces tonight, we have been well aware of many of these points but many American's live in a semi-conscious state of denial.  Particularly the government officials who we put in office to ostensibly deal with public health, education and income issues.

It is time to not just want change, but to demand it.

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".

The Guardian also chimes in....with a big fat FAIL

Japanese, for example, can expect to outlive Americans, on average, by more than four years. In fact, citizens of Israel, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, South Korea and every western European and Nordic country save one can expect to live longer than Americans.

There are also wider differences, the report shows. The average Asian woman, for example, lives for almost 89 years, while African-American women live until 76. For men of the same groups, the difference is 14 years.

One of the main problems faced by the US, says the report, is that one in six Americans, or about 47 million people, are not covered by health insurance and so have limited access to healthcare.

As a result, the US is ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in terms of infants surviving to age one. The US infant mortality rate is on a par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia and Poland. If the US could match top-ranked Sweden, about 20,000 more American babies a year would live to their first birthday.

The Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen developed the Human Development Index in 1990.  He states that
"Human development is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it."

The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 is modeled on the United Nations Development Programme’s global Human Development Report, which has provided authoritative analysis and a ranked index for countries around the world for almost two decades. The Measure of America is the first time the human development approach has been applied in the United States or any other industrialized nation

More snippets culled by the Guardian:

The US has a higher percentage of children living in poverty than any of the world's richest countries.

Can we afford to pull these children out of poverty?  Can we afford not to?

In fact, the report shows that 15% of American children - 10.7 million - live in families with incomes of less than $1,500 per month.

Phil Gramm, George Bush, John McCain would have us believe that this is mainly in our collective imagination.
Why do we give these people the time of day in our media?

It also reveals 14% of the population - some 40 million Americans - lack the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks such as understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.

The other 86% of us need to understand this report and it's ramifications.

The website is comprehensive, with maps breaking down statistics from different parts of the country, the full report can be ordered on

Originally posted to route66 on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 05:39 PM PDT.

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