April 19th, 2014
10:09 AM ET

How U.S. is lagging on quality of life

Fareed speaks with Michael Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School, about a groundbreaking new Social Progress Index – and how the United States is lagging on many indicators. Watch the video for the full interview or on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

You were shocked at what you learned about America.

Yes, I think this wasn’t the picture of America that I think many of us Americans have – that we are a leader, a social leader, that we've advanced the ball in terms of opportunity and the needs of our citizens. And it shows anything but that.

So if you look at the Social Progress Index, on the whole, what's striking is the top countries are New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, these small countries. But basically then a lot of European countries and Canada beat the United States.


The United States is 16, Ireland is ahead of it, Japan is ahead of it, Britain is ahead of it, Germany is ahead of it.


What does that tell us? What does that measure?

So this effort tries to really, for the first time ever, take let's call it the social or community or quality of life dimensions of a society, and capture those in a rigorous measurement framework – using the best data available in the world. That's the best and objective measures of these various multiple things. But of course, social progress is a broad concept.

Right. And that's where you break it down into these subcategories. Health and wellness, Japan is number one, Italy is number two, Switzerland is number three. You have to go all the way to 70 to get to the United States.

It's an area where the U.S. – if you actually look objectively, we're just not delivering. We actually spend the most money on this of any country in the world, probably in all of recorded history, in terms of our health care budget every year. But in terms of the actual outcomes – and by the way, the Social Progress Index measures the outcomes you achieve, not how much you spend, not how much you care, not whether you have a big heart…



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Topics: Economy • GPS Show • United States

soundoff (1,080 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    Oops meant "afforded" not affordee. Sorry

    April 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
  2. chrissy

    Amen @ Randy Spear! And its way past time to bring our men, women, sons, daughter and siblings home! I have waited far too long for the love of my life to return from Iraq! And i want him to return safe and sound so we can marry and spend the rest of our life together! Ya hear me John Harry! Time for you to get back here where you belong!!!

    April 23, 2014 at 6:10 pm |
  3. chrissy

    This country was concieved with foreignors so that shouldnt bother no one! What should though, is the number of deaths that WE are resposible for even if it was inadvertantly! Because even if we werent there or didnt know, its still our country so we are just as responsible!

    April 23, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
    • Mustafa ZulfuqurAli

      Think about this chrissy. From 1964-1975 America dropped 2 million bombs on Vietnam and murdered 1.7 million Vietnamese people. So was that inadvertant or advertant??????????? War is just human being's clever way to make murder legal. period. In the eyes of God, ALL killing is wrong, no matter how much we humans may try to justify it........ 🙁

      April 24, 2014 at 12:46 am |
  4. Chris

    I have extreme doubts about this study. They tell you over and over again how rigorous and objective the study is, but not a word on how they made it so. Any study of social issues has its biases. This interview itself strongly implies that access to a social service is equal to how much it's used. What a bunch of crap. Pay attentionto what is actually being said, not what it 'feels' like. When you're told something is objective witout any iota of how it's bjective, doubt, check it out.

    How come you don't hear about studies that show where the U.S. is leading the world. Because it doesn't sell. Because it doesn't jive with mainstream media. And because if the world's problems aren't due to mainstream America, then our situation is way more hopeless than anyone might consider.

    April 23, 2014 at 11:16 pm |
  5. Jaffar Almusawwi

    Thank you, Mustafa ZulfuqurAli. I have just read all your comments. As a fellow Iraqi, who was also forced to survive by moving to America, I agree with you. In my case, half of my family was murdered by America. For no reason. Most Americans have no clue about how much suffering they are causing, in so many countries, while they call other people terrorists. Just like, during the Nuremburg Trials, after World War II, most Germans had no idea about the exact nature of the crimes Hitler had been committing against the Jews.

    April 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
  6. Jaffar Almusawwi

    It is exactly as you are saying, Mustafa. America drops millions of bombs on certain countries, and then millions of people from those countries are forced to migrate, to America. And then they are wondering why so many foreigners are moving in next door to themselves! The jokes I see in "Al Jazeera" circles are as follows: (1) The average American's knowledge of geography is so atrocious, that when 9/11 happened, and it was determined that Saudi Arabia was behind it, the halfwits in the Pentagon pointed to Iraq, 1200 miles away, thinking it was Saudi Arabia. And that is why Iraq was bombed! (2) When surgeons were attempting to give war criminal Dick Cheney a new heart, they opened him up, only to find no heart there in the first place. He was a heartless sob! They actually had to give him somebody else's forcibly donated heart, so that he could be whole.

    April 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
  7. Marcello Botzo

    The above is in line with the Angloam philosophy of life:

    "Make as much money as possible no matter how and what, bully thy neighbors and give handouts to the poors (to pay as little tax as possible)"

    Are you now wandering why the Muslim religion is growing in US and UK and the Christian religions not?

    April 24, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
    • Jaffar Almusawwi

      Thank you Marcello, for speaking the truth! Anglo-American philosophy: In order to be "king of the mountain" so that you can dominate others and live the good life, you have to bomb the crap out of your neighbors (even though your Christian religion teaches you: Thou shallt not kill AND love thy neighbor!) and you have to lie about what a "nice" guy you are, really really really, and hopr that the rest of the world will buy it................. well, the rest of the world is not only NOT buying it.................. the rest of the world is SICK of it........... 🙁

      April 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
      • Gbox

        The US government does not take direction from Christian clergy. Also, which of its neighbors is the US bombing?

        April 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm |
      • why we should care

        Perhaps the US government SHOULD take direction from the Clergy, at least with regard to these 2 immortal concepts: Thou shallt not kill, and, love thy neighbor. This would do the entire world a "world of good"!!!! Our planet has become a global village now. Every nation is our neighbor. So dropping 2 million bombs on Vietnam and 1.5 million bombs on Iraq, for trumped-up reasons, was not very neighborly, in a "we share this planet" kinda way.............

        April 27, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
  8. Ted Ward

    Little wonder that this is so since in the current PC culture most things that are good in life are portrayed as bad, and many things that are bad are made out to be ok or cool. The result is a lot of people make bad decisions at all levels of society and as a consequence there are a lot of unhappy people with broken lives who have no idea why they are unhappy.

    April 24, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
    • why we should care

      The 5 D's: divorce, drugs, debt, decadence, deception, have significantly negatively impacted the entire western world. It is so interesting that the eastern world tries so desperately to emulate or "copy" the west. If only they knew better......... 🙁 What their Buddhist Faith teaches is actually the wisest "principles for humans" ever created. The west should actually have been trying desperately to "copy" the east. Alas, the gong of money and power and greed sounded louder than the gong of Buddhist philosophy.......... 🙁

      April 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
      • Lance

        There's not much freedom here in America anymore, Insurance is out of control, prices are so high on everything and there are more laws than you can possibly imagine linked to huge fines that are "Bilking" Americans out of every last penny the government can get their hands on, it's ridiculous.

        April 27, 2014 at 6:59 am |
  9. Theodore Hyczko

    Americans work hard so the one percent can party

    April 26, 2014 at 10:27 am |
  10. Antoinette

    I dare to question the professor when it comes to his statistics and information. Does he not place America on 23 when it comes to access and information. He should have allowed for that position and question the information he found.

    April 26, 2014 at 11:18 am |
  11. wes

    In the least amount words !
    Wall St. manipulates everything – since 1986 we import more poor people every year then what is practical

    April 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
  12. wes

    forgot lobbyist

    April 26, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Gbox

    That's it Fareed, never miss an opportunity to put down the US. That seems to be your specialty. Tell us, how bad has it been for you?

    April 26, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
    • why we should care

      These are facts, presented to us by a brilliant Harvard Professor. There is no question that the US had slipped significantly, in many many areas, over the last 30 years. If you would open your eyes and just look around you, and were honest with yourself, you would see the the 5 D's: divorce, drugs, debt, decadence, deception have hurt us badly. But if you are one of those folk that watches Fox News and listens to Hate Radio, all the time, then you have to be forgiven for your stark ignorance.........

      April 26, 2014 at 9:07 pm |
      • Gbox

        If your reading comprehension ability was even average, you would have seen that I did not deny the 5 D facts. You missed the point entirely.

        April 27, 2014 at 1:16 am |
      • why we should care

        Instead of bashing Fareed for bashing the US, we should be thanking him, profusely, for helping us to see the error of our ways, which can help us to self correct........ and improve ourselves.........

        April 27, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
  14. Lisa Blank

    I am from Ohio and have lived in New Zealand. It's not just the climate that is better! Women are equal. For a country that prides ourself on "All Men are Created Equal", we haven't yet felt the benefit to society that equality can give. Contrary to popular belief, the "world economic crisis" did NOT hit all western countries. If we look at the countries that came in ahead of us, they have some similar qualities. Equality of women, social equality for all, MUCH higher minimum wage, longer lives, better treatment of elders and much more. These are things we swear we believe in, but refuse to live up to. If we could just LEARN instead of parading out patriotism – work to MAKE our country better instead of just screaming that it already is – maybe we could make our country better than it ever has been and live up to the Founding Fathers words.

    April 27, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
    • why we should care

      That is an awesome comment! Thank you Ma'am........ 🙂

      April 27, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
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    April 28, 2014 at 9:39 am |
  16. Eddie Fonseca

    When we hear the greatest American Gospel Singer Daryl Coley explaining how God will save our lives and our great nation, with a middle class which struggles to provide the basic human essentials from providing food and shelter for their children at night which is a constant question for the average nurse or trades worker in America. These types of questions should not have to answered in America, because we are a nation, which prides ourselves on being a superpower which can provide peace to the Middle East with the latest US Military weapons we should also provide top quality free Universal health care and wages that can support our family's in America. As American who has traveled to other city's across the world, I have seen other countries which have half the wealth as America but some how they can provide free health care and top quality care to their citizens because they treat as a right not a privilege which is the difference between life and death in those places. As Americans we can agree we take our basic services from health care to other things, and treat them as high ranking privilege which should not be the case but we should treat them as a human right not like a McDonalds fast food place where if we can afford or not. Without this vision of thinking in America should be treated like privilege will be a nation which will lag behind the other industrial nations, or will be a country that will change our capitalism way's to a mixed economy way for future generations of young Americans to survive in our society for years to come.

    May 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm |
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