Monday, July 21, 2008

The Measure of America

On July 20th , the study The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009 was released by Columbia University Press. The book, commissioned by the Oxfam charity and several foundations, presents a wealth of data demonstrating the profound and deepening social decay of the United States. Using figures provided by the US Bureau of the Census, the report documents the dramatic decline of American society relative to other advanced industrialized countries, and the mounting social disparities within the US. The resulting portrait shows that much of our country’s population live in conditions that can only be described as “Third World."

Some key findings from the The Measure of America:

* The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy - yet spends more on health care than any other nation.

* One American dies every 90 seconds from obesity-related health problems.

* Fourteen percent of the population - some 30 million Americans - lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.

* African American students are three times more likely than whites to be placed in special education programs, and only half as likely to be placed in gifted programs.

* The top 1 percent of U.S. households possesses a full third of America’s wealth.

* Nearly one in five American children lives in poverty, with more than one in thirteen living in extreme poverty.

* Over the course of a year, at least 1.35 million children are at some point homeless.

* The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s people - but 24 percent of the world’s prisoners.

* African Americans are imprisoned at six to eight times the rate of whites; the rate is much higher for African Americans who do not graduate high school; by age thirty-five, 60 percent of African American high school dropouts will have spent time in prison.

* 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 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.

You can find out much more about the report at their very impressive web site. The site lists key findings from the report, a Well-O-Meter which allows you to approximate your own human development index by answering a series of questions, interactive maps, and tables.

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