From responding to the pandemic to encouraging equality for minorities, the United States is not living up to its billing as the world’s superpower. Its performance on social indicators has been slipping for at least a decade, even though the country has the biggest economy and strongest military.
The U.S., coming No. 28 out of 163 nations in the latest Social Progress Index, ranks behind its peers in categories such as access to quality health care (97), discrimination and violence against minorities (100), and even property rights for women (57).
Europe and Asia have dealt more effectively so far with the coronavirus than has the U.S., whose performance is on par with Brazil. And in the Social Progress Index, released this month, the U.S. was one of only three nations to post a lower score than in 2011. (Brazil and Hungary were the other two.)
The biggest declines were in categories such as personal safety, personal rights, and inclusiveness. Even the World Happiness Report, an alternative social ranking, suggests Americans are less content than a decade ago.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t bright spots. The U.S. retains a university system that is the envy of the world and top-notch e-government performance communication. And it is making progress in various areas, including on some environmental measures. The pandemic may spur more progress if fewer people have to commute to work. But the first priority now, policy experts say, is a better public-health response to the pandemic.
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