Friday, July 18, 2008


What's the annual cost of American inequality? 21,000 dead babies. That's one of the startling conclusions of The Measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008-2009. The report applies the methodology of the UN Human Development Index to America's states, congressional districts and cultural groups, exposing shocking disparities. Parts of the United States are thirty years behind the rest, while on key indicators of health and education, the US trails every other western nation (on life-expectancy, it trails Israel, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, and South Korea, plus pretty much all of Western Europe). But the most horrifying data is on infant mortality:

The U.S. infant mortality rate is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, and Poland; if the U.S. infant mortality rate were the same as that of top-ranked Sweden, 21,000 more American babies would live to celebrate their first birthdays every year.
That's absolutely staggering. Every single one of those deaths is preventable and avoidable. They happen because, despite spending more per capita on health care than anywhere else in the world, a sixth of Americans just don't have access.

The report (or at least its executive summary [PDF] - the main report is available only in hardcopy, at a price) makes a number of recommendations on how the US can improve its HDI ranking and reduce the inequalities in its society, including extending healthcare to all and investing in early childhood education. But I expect them to be ignored. After all, every True American (tm) knows that the measure of how great a country you are is not the substantive freedom and standard of living you provide to your citizens, but the size of your military and how many other countries you can bomb.

(Hat tip: The Guardian)