Comparison of American Poverty to the Poorest Countries

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“America, it seems, is becoming something like the world’s first poor rich country.” – Umair Haque America has built the world’s largest economy. Many Americans would assume that due to America’s wealth and readily available world class services, that America is one of the best countries to live in. While measuring wellbeing is based on seemingly objective standard, the United Nations have defined 17 aspirations that developed countries should be ranking well on.

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In a data anaylysis by Quartz (Merelli), the data found that America ranked poorly in most of the 17 areas, examples include poverty, child mortality, and life expectancy; my dependent variables of the question. I found these three areas as key components in researching and comparing America to other similarly developed countries with a similar GDP ranking. With America as wealthy and advanced as they are, one would asume that the US would score a respectable ranking in poverty, child mortality and lfie expectancy. It was disheartning to see how low America scored compared to other countries, often being one of the worst in ranking compared to other highly weathy countries.

I hypothesize that America’s poverty, child mortality and life expectancy ranking is far lower than what is seen in most developed countries, and will be comparable to countries ranked lower in GDP such as countries from South Africa. It seems America is not as great as some make it out to seem. America unfortunatley has the second highest rate of poverty amoung developed and rich countries with 17.2% of the entire population living in poverty. For comparison, countries similar in wealth and development such as Canada, Germany, and Sweden ranked from 8.6% to 12.6% (“Inequality – Poverty Rate – OECD Data”). Perhaps it is because Americans spend nearly $9,500 yearly on health care, nearly double the average among other countries (OECD). One would wrongly assume that due to the high cost of medical care, Americans would be in prime health. Truthfully America has fewer doctors, and less medical care beds than a majority of other developed countries, once again America is ranking towards the bottom in the parameters set. Surprisingly America is the “only advanced economy in the world to not have full health coverage of its population” (Merelli). With America scoring last in available medical care beds (2.9% per 1000), it’s not a surprise American child mortality is so high (“Hospital Beds per 1,000 People (2014)”).

Other developed countries such as Germany rank at 8.2% for comparison. The child mortality rate is higher in American than in any other advanced economy. In 2013, the American child mortality rate was 5.9 per 1,000 lives, ranked 51st internationally (World Bank, 2014). In 2011, the child mortality rate for African Americans was 11.5%. A nation with a child mortality of 11.5% would have ranked 77th internationally in 2011, just below Tonga and Grenada (Shaefer). Perhaps the shortage of medical beds is also the reason who adult American have shorter lifespans. American lifespan is estimated around 78.8 years, almost two years less than the average set by the UN. Japan leads the polls of life expectancy with 83.7 years for comparison (“Life Expectancy at Birth (2014)”). America’s short life expectaancy also is due to the great violence raking our nation. Deadly assault is six times as high in American than the OECD average. America coming in with 5.2% of death due to assault with every other developed country scoring less than 1.5%. To calculate the data for life expectancy, counties in America were sorted into groups based on a “deprivation index” calculated from ranking of “education, occupation, wealth, income distribution, unemployment, poverty, and housing quality”(Shaefer) . This percentage is hand in hand with the life expectancy observed in 2000 in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and below that in Mexico (WHO, 2014).

Additionally America is the only country in the entire world where maternal mortality has increased over the years. Another fearful statistic is a women’s role and safety in America. 36% of women in America will experience violence during their lifetime. Countries such as the UK, Sweden, and Australia rank from 25% to 29%, making America the top contender for violence (“Women Who Experience Violence during Their Lifetime (2014)”). In a general outlook, there is little to be desired about America’s violence. In 2012, the homicide rate in America was 4.7% (ranking 128th internationally). Similar countries such as Canada and Finland anked 1.6%. “Countries with comparable homicide rates to America included Cuba, Albania, Yemen, and Niger” (Shaefer). Believe it or not but America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2011, with a rate of 716 per 100,000 people in the U.S, well above all other countries including Cuba (510), and Rwanda (492) (Walmsley, 2012). Can the ranking in America really be compared to what is experienced in some of the poorest countries? By these standards, it is not at all clear that the poor are rich by global standards. In fact, their circumstances look quite poor indeed. America seems to be developing a different type of poverty altogether. One for which there is no name for it yet. Umair Haque describes it as “something like living at the knife’s edge, constantly being on the brink of ruin, one small step away from catastrophe and disaster, ever at the risk of falling through the cracks.”

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Comparison of American Poverty to the Poorest Countries. (2021, Mar 01). Retrieved May 27, 2023 , from

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