Monday 17 December 2012

Worse than we knew

Since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, the US has had 31 school shootings. The rest of the world has had less than half that many, 14. To explore the details visit here and scroll down to the interactive map.

More than twice as many as the rest of the world put together is worse than we knew. But you're telling yourself, these violence statistics are just black swans, weird outliers---the US is still one of the greatest countries in the world, right?

Think again. Edward Fullbrook, editor of Real World Economics Review, has published a wee ebook tabulating how the US compares with 29 other OECD countries on 56 measures of personal, social, economic and political life.

On eight health measures, the US ranks an average of 28th of 30. 

On healthy life expectancy from birth, the US ranks 24th of 30. Its citizens can expect six fewer years of healthy life than the citizens of Japan, five less than citizens of Switzerland, four less than citizens of Sweden, Iceland, Italy, Australia and Spain.

Its infant mortality rate is 25th worst of 30, 2½ times higher than Sweden's. Its obesity rate is worst of all OECD countries, eleven times higher than South Korea, eight times higher than Japan, four times higher than Switzerland and Norway. 

Well maybe, you say. But it's still a great place to live, isn't it? On eight family life measures the US is dead last. 

Its teenage pregnancy rate is 23 times higher than that of South Korea, eleven times that of Japan, nine times higher than The Netherlands and Switzerland. On paid maternity, Denmark guarantees 100% of annual wages, Norway 86%, Germany 84%, Sweden 82%, The US provides 0%; no other OECD country is that stingy. The US child poverty rate is second worst, 22%, nine times that of Denmark, eight times that of Finland, five times that of Sweden. Its divorce rate is worst, four times that of Mexico Italy and Ireland, twice Canada's rate.

But you say, at least it's a leading democracy! On freedom and democracy the US is also dead last.

It's worst in voter turnout. It's also worst by a huge margin in prisoners per capita---the US incarceration rate is 77 times that of Iceland, twelve times that of Ireland and Norway, ten times that of Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. It's near worst in percent of parliamentarians who are women, press freedom, and collective bargaining coverage

But surely with its emphasis on law and order, the US is a shining example of public order and safety? On public order and safety, the US is also dead last.

I've written about homicide and gun ownership rates. In HIV infection rate and cocaine abuse the US ranks worst. Its robbery rate is one of the worst, 31 times higher than Japan, fifteen times higher than South Korea and France. Road fatality rate and percent of lifetime lost to injury are near worst. 

Well, you say, at least the US is one of the most generous countries? On generosity the US also ranks dead last.

On NGO and public tsunami relief pledges, the US is middle of the table; Norwegians and Swiss give eight times more per capita. On government foreign aid, asylum seekers accepted per capita, greenhouse gas emissions per capita, efforts to reduce exploitation of the global commons and ecological footprint, the US is near the bottom, and on net development assistance as percent of gross national income, the US is dead last.

Well at least don't Americans enjoy a nice life? On income and leisure the US ranks 27th of 30.

It's 7th of 30 in GDP per hour worked, 12th in ratio of female to male income, but worst or near worst in hours worked, share of income received by the poorest 20%, income inequality and vacation days per year.

Only in education does the US escape the bottom ranks.

It's in the middle of the table on high school and university enrolment, student reading and scientific literacy; near the bottom in problem solving, math literacy, and in percent of college grads working in scientific and engineering jobs.

The statistics on violence and guns in the US aren't black swans. They look more like indicators of social and political disintegration, due to forty years of neoliberalism and plutonomy.

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