Monday, 28 July 2008


Independent July. 18, 2008

By Leonard Doyle

The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-
year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between
Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New
England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and
education depending on where people live in the US, according to a
report published yesterday.

The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid
agency approach to measuring well-being -- more familiar to observers
of the Third World -- with shocking results. The US finds itself
ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants
to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and
although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it
accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.

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

"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.

Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the
percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved
since the 1970s.

Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans
the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the
two groups.

Despite the fact that the US spends roughly $5.2bn (£2.6bn)
every day on health care, more per capita than any other nation in the
world, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of every western
European and Nordic country, bar Denmark..

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

According to a United Nations human development report, the US is in
12th place in a league table of wealthy developed nations. Britain is
ranked 16th.

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