From Steve Johnson:
Are you better off? Is there good evidence for progress?
Over the past two decades, what have the U.S. trends been for the following important measures of social health: high school dropout rates, college enrollment, juvenile crime, drunken driving, traffic deaths, infant mortality, life expectancy, per capita gasoline consumption, workplace injuries, air pollution, divorce, male-female wage equality, charitable giving, voter turnout, per capita GDP and teen pregnancy?
The answer for all of them is the same: The trend is positive. Almost all those varied metrics of social wellness have improved by more than 20% over the past two decades. And that’s not counting the myriad small wonders of modern medicine that have improved our quality of life as well as our longevity: the anti-depressants and insulin pumps and quadruple bypasses.
Americans enjoy longer, healthier lives in more stable families and communities than we did 20 years ago. But other than the crime trends, these facts are rarely reported or shared via word-of-mouth channels.
Many Americans, for instance, are convinced that “half of all marriages end in divorce,” though that hasn’t been the case since the early 1980s, when divorce rates peaked at just over 50%. Since then, they have declined by almost a third.
Americans enjoy longer, healthier lives in more stable families and communities than we did 20 years ago. This is not merely a story of success in advanced industrial countries. The quality-of-life and civic health trends in the developing world are even more dramatic.
Even though the world’s population has doubled over the past 50 years, the percentage living in poverty has declined by 50% over that period. Infant mortality and life expectancy have improved by more than 40% in Latin America since the early 1990s. No country in history has improved its average standard of living faster than China has over the past two decades.