Social Progress Index 2015 shows Scandinavians on top and US underperforming


Alliance magazine


The US is the world’s 16th most socially advanced country and underperforms across a wide range of social and environmental measures according to the Social Progress Index 2015, published today by US-based non-profit the Social Progress Imperative.

Measuring a country’s social progress outcomes, the Social Progress Index identifies a wide range of areas in which the US is underperforming compared to countries with a comparable GDP per capita. The two greatest areas of US underperformance are on measures of ‘personal safety’ and ‘health and wellness’. Despite spending the most on healthcare per capita of any country in the world, the US ranks 68th on ‘health and wellness’, below countries including Kuwait (65th), Israel (14th), Brazil (34th) and the UK (27th).

A few key findings from this year’s Social Progress Index:

  • Norway is this year’s top performing country, followed by Sweden (2nd), Switzerland (3rd), Iceland (4th) and New Zealand (5th). Though these countries’ social progress scores are very similar their GDP per capita vary widely (Norway $62,448; New Zealand $32,808), showing that higher GDP can help generate higher social progress but it is not the whole story.
  • Brazil is the top of the BRICS, followed by South Africa, Russia, China and India. Russia has a much higher GDP per capita than Brazil (42nd) and South Africa (63rd) yet ranks lower on the Social Progress Index in 71st place.
  • The world shows a markedly strong performance on two components of the Social Progress Index in particular: ‘nutrition and basic medical care’ and ‘access to basic knowledge’. It is notable that these components encompass many of the priorities of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals that have been a major focus of aid and development efforts for the past 15 years.
  • The components of the Social Progress Index where the world fares worst are ‘tolerance and inclusion’, ‘personal rights’, ‘access to advanced education’, and ‘ecosystem sustainability’. These are issues where even the more advanced countries can struggle to score highly. ‘Tolerance and inclusion’ and ‘personal rights’ are also less correlated with GDP per capita while ‘ecosystem sustainability’ scores tend not to rise with GDP per capita.

Click here to read the full press release.

Click here to read an interview with Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative.

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