U.S. Ranks Fourth in Global Well-Being Index

well-being index
well-being index

Around the globe, life is getting better, at least according to the U.N.'s Human Development Report released Thursday -- a report that aims provide a meaningful metric of human well-being. While countries vary, people around the world are generally healthier, richer and better educated than they were 40 years ago.

According to the report, life expectancy climbed from 59 years in 1970 to 70 in 2010, school enrollment rose from 55% of all primary and secondary school-age children to 70% , and per capita GDP doubled to more than $10,000. While people in all regions shared in this progress,
many of the poorest countries posted the greatest gains.

The report uses the Human Development Index, a measurement developed in 1990 by the late economist Mahbub ul Haq and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amaryta Sen. The Human Development Reports and the HDI, which tracks progress in health, education and overall living standards, challenges purely economic measures of national achievement and aims to provide a more meaningful metric of human well-being. For the first time this year, the index also tried to adjust for disparities within nations in income, health and education as well as a gender inequality.

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Norway topped the list and Zimbabwe captured 169th and last place. The top movers, the ones that advanced and developed most, were led by Oman and followed by China, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Tunisia, South Korea, Algeria and Morocco.

Aside from the top movers, there weren't many surprises in the report. Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland, Lichtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden and Germany rounded out the top ten.

At the bottom of the list were countries
mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, a region that displays deep disparities between women and men on a wide range of development indicators and that has extreme multidimensional poverty: Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Burundi, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe.

As for the U.S., its high rank in the index was helped by education. Hurting the U.S. mostly was income inequality. For the first time, the group produced an Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index, which takes inequality within a country. On that list, the U.S.'s rank drops to 12th.