UN Says Parts of US as Poor as Third World
Claims that the New Orleans floods have laid bare a growing racial and economic divide in the US have, until now, been rejected by the American political establishment as emotional rhetoric. But yesterday's UN report provides statistical proof that for many - well beyond those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the great American Dream is an ongoing nightmare.
The annual UN Deveopment Program's 2005 Human Development Index was released yesterday. In my estimation, this is the most important set of stats released each year. It esentially compares and ranks countries based on a wide range of health, education and social welfare indices. It appears this year, the took it a step forward, looking more closely at inequality WITHIN nations, not just between them.
Last year, I focussed on Cuba's amazing distinciton of being #2 in terms of their human development ranking for the size of their economy. This year they are #1 in the world in that regard. And it's not that their economy has been lagging, in fact at 3.5% annual growth since 1999, their growth is the top 4 of the 57 "highly-developed" countries in the world. I also noted all the top countries (Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, etc.) have a far more socialist orientation than the US (now at #10) and the UK (at #15).
The results this year are equally facinating. The big news getting press is that the former Soviet countries continue to be worse off in their human development, compared to their positions in 1990. They share this dubious distinction of decline only with the most ravaged parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. 20% of those living in these countries now subsides on less than $2 a day, compared to 5% in 1990. Tajikistan has fallen 21 places; Ukraine, 17; and Russia, 15. "Ukraine has one of the fastest-growing rates of HIV infection in the world, with Russia a close second. The decline also reflected high levels of corruption in nations from Russia to Central Asia."
The report also challenges the claim that globalisation is an automatic guarantee of greater prosperity for all. (Socialist) Vietnam, for instance, has managed to fight poverty with export growth but in Mexico 'rapid import liberalisation in agriculture has further marginalized the rural poor,' the report said. Africa has seen increases in exports, but its human devlopment is getting worse.
Meanwhile the United States has fallen 2 spots since just last year, to 10th. But it is some of the more detailed inter-America stats that are particularly revealing:
Child mortality is on the rise in the United States. For half a century the US has seen a sustained decline in the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. But since 2000 this trend has been reversed.
Spending the most on health care, but nothing on inequities. Although the US leads the world in healthcare spending this high level goes disproportionately on the care of white Americans. It has not been targeted to eradicate large disparities in infant death rates based on race, wealth and state of residence.
A baby boy from one of the top 5 per cent richest families in America will live 25 per cent longer than a boy born in the bottom 5 per cent. The infant mortality rate in the US is the same as Malaysia, which has a quarter of America's income.
Blacks in Washington DC have a higher infant death rate than people in the Indian state of Kerala The health of US citizens is influenced by differences in insurance, income, language and education. Black mothers are twice as likely as white mothers to give birth to a low birthweight baby. And their children are more likely to become ill.
Hispanic Americans are nearly three times as likely as white Americans to have no health coverage (34% vs. 13%). The US is the only wealthy country with no universal health insurance system.
If the gap in health care between black and white Americans was eliminated it would save nearly 85,000 lives a year.
Child poverty rates in the United States are now more than 20 per cent. The US - with Mexico - has the dubious distinction of seeing its child poverty rates increase to more than 20 per cent. The UK has shown how quickly child poverty can decrease with targeted tax breaks and benefits.