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. bs1

    Their "measure" of quality of life is incredibly biased to a socialist utopia as the "gold standard" and ignoring the much higher quality of life in the US when measured by far more objective standards/

    April 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
  2. SamT

    The programs to dumb down and marginalize Americans are working.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
    • sly

      The only programs to 'dumb down Americans' are tv programs and iPhone apps. Americans spend all their time watching American Idol and other dumb reality tv shows.

      And obese? Heck – that's the American pastime – get really obese. Pretty sick actually.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  3. flightfromfrostmtn

    The main problem is that the rich have succeeded in locking out the rest of the country from any say in our government. Our two party system is a 'security' check against those that might rock the boat – anyone doing so is quickly kicked to the outside where they can be properly marginalized and outspent. Its scary what measures these living gods are putting into place to control the masses. Once upon a time we could count on at least the SCOTUS to be fair and act as the check it was intended to be on the other two branches – no longer. We the ordinary people have to play by the rules, be civilized while the elite can 'color outside the lines' at will.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  4. TAJW

    I'm sure if you think hard enough, somehow you can blame this on the evil Republicans, and come up with ways how the good, wise and benevolent Democrats have been working unsuccessfully to change this trend but the evil, stupid, anarchist, terrorist, arsonist, Astroturf, lying Republicans and tea party thwart them at every turn.

    You can always get Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to chime in on the issue.

    April 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • Keith

      One needn't think all that hard at all, actually.

      April 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
    • Alan S

      TAJW: Why do you try to politicize this? Anyone who suggests either party is to blame - is silly. Some problems in this country go beyond party, and this is one of them.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
      • DD

        exactly. its the government as a whole. blaming specific political parties is just a distraction from the real cause of most things wrong with this country.

        April 21, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
    • Susan

      Your effort at sarcasm is laughable, I, and a lot of other people, DO blame the republicans for a number of problems facing this country. From the worship of guns, to an unreasonable hate of government in any form, the GOP has all but brought a once vibrant democracy/republic to is knees. The republicans have been taken over by vicious ideologues calling themselves the "tea party".

      April 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
    • Kris Jackson

      What you're saying is called "reductio ad absurdum", taking an argument to an absurd length as a way of dismissing it. However, no matter what length you take it to, yes, the greatest problem this country has is the Republican Party.

      April 21, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
      • Hoss2678

        Awww, I love philosophy too!!! If I didn't, I wouldn't know what that term meant. 😉

        April 22, 2014 at 4:49 am |
  5. chrissy

    @ SamT, i think you are just "parroting" what youve heard from some very bitter people, because none of that is true! First of all in many states there arent even minimum wage jobs available! AND people who are ABLE to work do NOT recieve a check for being poor! Thats a different planet. And you DO have to pay back student loans or you will have the IRS on your back!!! You should probably do a little more research before you randomly sling crap! And @ Citizen, THAT idea is awesome!!!

    April 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
  6. chrissy

    Lol and @ jack2 WHO says we have to play nice? Ill scream it from the mountain tops if i must! And Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid NEED TO GO! Reid is too OLD to think and Pelosi is too CORRUPT! Idt anyone has forgotten her insider info that got her millions on VISA!

    April 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
  7. sly

    These are the best of times for America. Our President is the 1st in 30-40 years to not start a war. Stock market, 401K at all time best. Health care for 9 million more now, and 50 million by next year. Obama killed our #1 enemy, and prevented any foreign terrorist attacks on our country. And our federal deficit is down 41% this year alone.

    Good times Americans – enjoy them!

    Now, if we can prevent any more foreign wars, we can finally start to rebuild our schools, our highways and jobs.

    April 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
    • Pro-active

      Agreed but we cannot be complacent. We have to keep moving on in the right direction and improving as fast as we can.

      April 21, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
    • Really?

      If you honestly belive that our Federal Def. is LOWER by 41% since Obama took office then this just proves to me without a shadow of a doubt that Democrats are completely clueless. You just can't be that... I hate to use the word stupid but... it's just not that possible. It just cant be that possible.

      April 22, 2014 at 6:13 am |
      • Mark D

        Do you realize that the deficit and the debt are two different things? Yes, the deficit has decreased substantially under Obama. The debt is courtesy of the past Republican administrations who unfortunately have a penchant for big ticket items and unnecessary wars and defense spending. .

        April 22, 2014 at 6:29 am |
      • Mark D

        You must be getting your newsfeed from Roger Ailes at Fox News. Please read and don't parrot the guys who get paid to misinform you because they're counting on you to not fact check them.

        April 22, 2014 at 6:31 am |
      • Pro-active

        The statistics being quoted are true and factual. There is nothing you and I can do to change facts. You may believe it or not, it's up to you but it isn't up to you to make up your own facts. What does that make you?

        April 22, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
  8. badley

    This is the result of Pure Capitalism as America has Grotesquely morphed it into, and most likely will be the downfall of our once great Nation. Someday "Capitalism will be said with the same distaste as Communism, there needs to be a balance of Social and individual needs for the perfect Utopia, people need to quit caring is they have more or less than their fellow man and work for the greater good......

    April 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
    • Grooveman

      Badley, we haven't had Pure Captialism or free markets since the late 19th and early 20th century. Government intervention has distorted the free market beyond recognition. Capitalism, while having faults of course, is still better than anything else that's ever been tried, hands down. History has proven that over and over, yet we continue to move further and further toward pure socialism in this country.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
      • badley

        Better than anything we've tried? So that is why the disparity between the haves and the have not's have increased to unprecedented numbers. There are increased numbers of children that go to bed hungry every night, until recently (ACA) the numbers of people that could not get health care was at record highs....And how do you explain the results from the study above?......me think you been listening to Rush a little too much.....

        April 21, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
      • meglon

        Yes, that's why the social democracy's of the Nordic countries are doing so much better than us because they have...a...wait... that's right, they have brains, as opposed to the conservatives of this country that have been driving us towards fascism for the last 30+ years.

        You "think" capitalism is best because you're unwilling to learn what the rest of the world is doing.

        April 22, 2014 at 12:05 am |
  9. dan ehrlich

    there's a big difference between this index and the UN's annual Human Development Index...obviously the criteria must be different, but there are several stark differences in standings.

    April 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
    • worldlypatriotusaveteran


      1. Norway
      2. Australia
      3. USA
      4. Netherlands
      5. Germany

      The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite measure of health, education and income that was introduced in the first Human Development Report in 1990 as an alternative to purely economic assessments of national progress, such as GDP growth. It soon became the most widely accepted and cited measure of its kind, and has been adapted for national use by many countries. HDI values and rankings in the global Human Development Report are calculated using the latest internationally comparable data from mandated international data providers.

      April 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
      • paul

        You should really look at the definition of the HDI again. That rankings you listed are based upon the assumption that there is no inequality in the distribution of resources in the country. When the inequality of distribution is added into the HDI the US falls to 16th place.

        April 22, 2014 at 2:09 am |
  10. williebkind

    Ah, give more freedoms so we can be like Fareed wants up to be–like them. That damn US!

    April 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
  11. Jc14b

    The work/life balance in America sucks. We get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner, sleep, and do it again.

    April 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
    • Pro-active

      That's the reason for lagging in well-being!

      April 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
    • LiveFree

      A perfect intelligent robot.

      April 22, 2014 at 12:53 am |
    • RON

      that has some truth. What really bothers me is that employers thing you should be on call 24/7 when your off work, sick, or on vacation. You shoudl have your cell phone with you all the time and be ready.

      April 22, 2014 at 8:15 am |
  12. Macc

    It has been 34 years in the making. Americans finally start feeling the hurt. It should only take about 15 more years before we figure out what to do about it. Hopefully we can still vote.

    April 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
  13. 422y46y



    you may be watched
    do usa&israel use the internet(facebook,youtube,twitter, chat rooms ..ect)to collect informations,can we call that spying??
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,location&sometimes political point of veiw?!?!
    do they record&analyse everything we do on the internet,,can they harm you using these informations??
    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه (فيس بوك,يوتيوب,تويتر,غرف الشات....الخ) للتجسس؟
    warning you may be watched
    do usa&israel use the internet(facebook,youtube,twitter, chat rooms ..ect)to collect informations,can we call that spying??
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,location&sometimes political point of veiw?!?!
    do they record&analyse everything we do on the internet,,can they harm you using these informations??
    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه (فيس بوك,يوتيوب,تويتر,غرف الشات....الخ) للتجسس؟
    warning you may be watched
    do usa&israel use the internet(facebook,youtube,twitter, chat rooms ..ect)to spy??
    do usa&israel use the internet 2 collect informations,,can we call that spying??
    they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,location&sometimes political point of veiw?!?!
    do they record&analyse everything we do on the internet,,can they harm you using these informations??

    April 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  14. chrissy

    Lol @ sly this is true! It just aint fast enough for most things! School districts should definitely NOT be shut down! Thats just disgusting! A city of over 20,000 and not ONE school??? Shame on US and be nice about American Idol lmao! I do watch that AND i vote too lol! Its a requirement by my grandaughter!

    April 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Abbey

    No surprise, behind all this money spending spree and lack of accountability are the progressive hillbully Democrats.

    April 21, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
    • sly

      He he he .... typical TeaParty: All Blame and No Brain.

      How about one of us name a single, just one, solution, that the Republicans have proposed for ANY problem in the past 10-15 years.

      We'll wait patiently ...

      April 21, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
    • meglon

      Actually part of the problem is that conservatives in general are so divorced from reality, all they have are really stupid talking points that a high school kid could refute.

      Look back at the presidents starting with Reagan, the god of the right, and demi-god of blowing up our national debt. Democrats in the white house, deficits go down.... republicans in the white house, spending skyrockets and our great grandchildren have to pay off the self serving, me first and only conservative mind fart.

      Republicans don't understand that they get rights and benefits every day in this country.... and they refuse to live up to the responsibility of paying for them. They are the least patriotic of any group sine the seditious insurrectionists of the south during the civil war.

      April 22, 2014 at 12:11 am |
  16. 1776usa2016

    This is what 30+ years of GOP rule will do to a country.

    We rose to the top under the Democratic admins of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and then we started our race to the bottom when Nixon came in and ended all the Deep Space missions, allowed foreign cars and steel to dump product into the US, and decimating education.


    April 21, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
  17. chrissy

    Lol @ sly, well Congreess DID vote raises for THEMSELVES! And of course THEIR scheduled work days were decreased...not that they do any actual work during them! So now their average pay (not including perks) is roughly $1,100.00 per day! Ridiculous huh? And the average worker cannot make that amount in a MONTH of 40 hour work weeks! SHAME on them...ALL of them! And michigans Gary Peters recieved almost 100 grand in kickbacks from Health Insurance special interest groups! While 140,000 families LOST their health insurance! Shame again!

    April 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
  18. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    April 21, 2014 at 6:51 pm |
    • LiveFree

      Apparently, we missed your country, what is it?

      April 22, 2014 at 12:54 am |
  19. worldlypatriotusaveteran

    If it's so terrible in the USA, why has the total number of PERSONS OBTAINING LEGAL PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS in the USA, NOT dropped, dramatically?

    In EACH and EVERY year since 1990, the USA has allowed OVER 1 MILLION persons to obtain LEGAL permanent resident status.

    SOURCE: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2012, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    Yes, it REALLY sucks here!

    April 21, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
  20. gahh

    America is a great place to live if you're a millionaire or billionaire, other wise you're just in the way. It's no longer, land of the free, and home of the brave, now it's land of the rich, home of the rich, poor need not apply, cause there's nothing here for you.

    April 21, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
    • Mustafa ZulfuqurAli

      but what happened to "Government of the people, by the people, for the people"??? Just because the new normal is: "Government of the fools, by the rich, for the rich" does not mean that the rest of us should just lie down and die, yes??? It means we have to wake up, voice our objections, complain like hell to all senators and congressmen, vote them out of office at every chance we get, join or start grass-roots organizations to make change happen, keep an even closer watch on the "dirty deals" going on inside our government, educate ourselves about every detail of our situation, object, object & object............. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 21, 2014 at 8:02 pm |
  21. Reality

    Folks, let's be realistic....what do you expect in a country where a lot of people just want to live from the government's feed healthcare , free food stamps, free school lunch , free cell if you get food stamps, social security because of incapacity ....if truly incapacity....free rent paid by government , free housing in one of the public housing projects, vouchers for free school, free college tuition....you name it....meanwhile we the working class, the true middle class continue to pay for all of it....this is the true blunt reality.....

    April 21, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
    • guest

      Reality! You wouldn't know reality if it came up and slapped you in the face. Its misguided tools like yourself that continue to help the rich steal the middle class blind, while you thank them and vote for them again. All the while believing all BS they spew. You disgust me

      April 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
      • Helen

        Well said!

        April 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm |
  22. chrissy

    Yesssss @ Mustafa and SHOUT it off the mountain tops! And the REALITY is there is NO middleclass anymore! Theres ultra rich, rich, working poor and POVERTY poor! And for you people who THINK people WANT a free ride and put up with the disdain you show, without knowing the facts ...couldnt be more WRONG! Not even if you worked at it! Last week alone just im my community i processed intake paperwork on 24 VETERANS of which 17 were freaking HOMELESS! That is absolutely disgusting for "The Greatest Country on Earth!" And i guarantee you not ONE of them wanted to be at an outreach center to get food from a pantry! You need to pull your head out from where ever its lodged and just spend ONE stinking day talking to people before you make snap harsh comments like that!!!!

    April 21, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
    • Mustafa ZulfuqurAli

      Thank you Ms. chrissy. So sad to see America slipping into 3rd world status, and such apathy displayed by the rich AND the government! Huge change in just 30 years.

      April 21, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
  23. chrissy

    So @ Reality, HOW can i get those Veterans FREE Housing??? Please let me know because they could use all the help they can get!

    April 21, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
  24. mdl

    Liberals are a pessimistic bunch, they hate it when someone else has it better.

    April 21, 2014 at 9:59 pm |
    • Helen

      Not at all. We are just the ones that take care of each other when conservatives run children down in the street, and then whine about being a victim because their fancy car got hurt.

      April 21, 2014 at 10:15 pm |
  25. Helen

    I'm not sure why our citizens always want to think that we live in the "best country in the world". We don't. And anytime someone voices a complaint or points out how other countries are doing better in someway, we are called "un-American". Many people in the US seem to think very negatively of Socialism, but have absolutely no idea what it actually means. We are never going to enter back into the world ring until we implement sweeping social change by switching to a social-capitalist economy. Every country above us on the list functions this way; placing the needs of the citizens above the blatant greed of a few. Anything else and we are doomed to failure and or full scale revolution. It isn't even political; it is basic level education. Is it any wonder that our education level is so low? Not at all. It is so much easier to herd a group of sheep than a group of free thinking humans. We all better wake up as soon as possible because it will take all of us to make the changes that are necessary.

    April 21, 2014 at 10:12 pm |
  26. chrissy

    ABSOLUTELY @ Helen and thank you @ Mustafa! It breaks my heart to see how badly American Veterans are treated after all that they have done FOR us!!! And i would CHALLENGE members of Congress AND the ultra rich and rich to live just ONE week the way our Vets are forced too! Or as the poverty poor! They wouldnt make it even ONE day i bet! Selfish, greedy, warmongering and lazy as they are...it would amaze me if ANY of them made it more than a day!

    April 21, 2014 at 10:33 pm |
  27. chrissy

    And for those that keep their parroting chant of "the poor just want a free ride"...i CHALLENGE you as well. These people work harder at trying to survive than they ever would working a fulltime job!!!

    April 21, 2014 at 10:38 pm |
  28. chrissy

    And @ mdl if your post was meant towards me youre wrong on 2 counts! I am not a liberal i am a realist and a humanitarian! And i dont WANT anymore than i already have and have worked HARD for! And in truth be told, IF i had MORE i would give that away with what i already give away! And if YOUR party were to ever pesent a viable candidate maybe we would vote her in!!! So i guess its put up or shut up aint it?

    April 21, 2014 at 11:13 pm |
    • Oscar

      I would like to suggest you take a real look at the demographics of a country like Sweden before making such a remark.

      April 22, 2014 at 2:02 am |
      • Oscar

        Oops, that was intended towards bert.f, not chrissy

        April 22, 2014 at 2:04 am |
  29. bert f.

    It's a lot easier to wire for internet a country like Britain, France, Sweden, etc. because of their small land mass, as opposed to the US with is huge land mass. Same with providing health care for everyone. Too many small towns scattered across to US to provide adequate medical services.

    April 21, 2014 at 11:19 pm |
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