A big reason why America keeps drifting ever deeper into mediocrity is a misperception about how far we have already declined, how determined and effective our foreign competition is, and how ineffective minor tweaks to current policies are likely to be. It's gotten so bad that even Tom Friedman is chastened:
"Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today," says Vest: sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in college completion rate; 22nd in broadband Internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.
Friedman may still think the way up is doubling down on globalization. To the contrary, we can't afford to fix these problems if Americans' real personal incomes continue to be hammered by the ways in which the US has designed and implemented globalization and free trade.
Charles Blow's column today presents more evidence that America is mediocre or worse among the IMF's "advanced economy" countries. See his chart below. The US ranks 30 out of 32 advanced nations in income inequality measured by the Gini Index. Sixteen percent of Americans reported food insecurity, putting us in a tie for last place (with South Korea) among the 20 nations reporting. (The poll question was, "Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?")
Only 5 nations in the group of 33 have a lower life expectancy at birth. The US has the largest percentage of its population in prison of any of the 33 countries (0.743%); second place France has less than half that incarceration rate (0.365%). The US unemployment rate ranks 26th highest out of 33; only Spain, Slovakia, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, France, and the Czech Republic have higher unemployment rates.
Our least bad rankings here are in student test scores. We're number 16 out of 30 in science and 24 out of 30 in math.
In Unicef's Comprehensive Assessment of Children and Adolescents in the Economically Advanced Nations the US ranked 20 out of 21, just ahead of the UK. Rankings were derived by giving equal weight to six assessments: Material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviours and risks, and subjective well-being. The US had it's highest ranking, 12, in educational well-being and was dead last in health and safety.
Charles Blow writing in NYT today reproduces a chart from the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation similar to the one above but covering different metrics. The US ranks 27 out of 31.
A brilliant clip from The Network via MoveOn.org.
More stats and links along these lines are in this new post, American Exceptionalism, shake hands with Inconvenient Facts.
Christine sent a link to 7 graphs that prove America is overrated in Global Post. It shows the USA is second worst (behind only the UK) in privacy protection, is the only OECD member with zero paid maternity leave, has several times as many violent deaths per capita as other OECD nations, spends 1.5 times as much of its GDP on health care as any other OECD nation and twice as much as the OECD average, produces twice as much CO2 per capita as the OECD average, is the only one of 25 nations with zero days of mandatory paid vacation, and is behind 29 other nations in the percentage of women in senior government positions.
This Nicholas Kristof column in NYT links to some other surveys showing USA way back in the pack of developed nations and by several metrics is in the middle of the pack of the 132 nations surveyed.
In the Social Progress Index, the United States excels in access to advanced education but ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety. Even in access to cellphones and the Internet, the United States ranks a disappointing 23rd, partly because one American in five lacks Internet access.
Lane Kenworthy has another group of 22 rankings over time here.
David Ruccio at Real-World Economics Review Blog posts 12 other charts making the USA-is-in-relative-decline point. Council of monkeys – 12 exhibits comparing the U.S. to other countries.