A student wrote “The United States has been a beacon to the world on how economic freedom brings more wealth, prosperity, and opportunity to its people. “
Supporting that contention, the UN Human Index Development report for 2010 indicates that the US is rated fourth highest in development among approx. 190 countries in the ratings when averages are taken. See: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/.
However, when categories are broken down, another picture appears. For example:
U.S. is ranked 30th (out of approx. 190 countries) in global infant mortality (deaths of children under age 5). Infant mortality rates are used to ascertain wellbeing and prosperity of a population. Source:
Given that the US’ GNP is one of the highest in the world, this indicates a pyramid structure of wealth which flattens out when you take averages.
In terms of poverty levels by race, the US Census Bureau in 2008 came up with the following:
Table 714 shows that Hispanics and African Americans have higher poverty levels than Whites, with such estimates staying steady over the last 30 years.
Approximately 43.6 (14.3%) million Americans were living in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million (13.2%) in 2008 ( "Poverty rate hits 15-year high",Reuters. September 17, 2010).
In terms of the distribution of income, the US ranks one of the lowest in the advanced industrialized countries. The CIA reports that the US ranks 45th in 2008 (dropping from 40th in 1997). Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html. For comparison, income distribution in Rwanda was 46.8 in 2000. Indonesia was 37th in 2009. Denmark was ranked 29th in 2007.
Today, according to one 2007 estimate, the richest 1 percent in the US account for 24 percent of the nation's income (http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2007.pdf).
This indicates an elite in operation. I think you see this best in Congress. There are no less than 261 millionaires in Congress, that’s about half. See this: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20023147-503544.html.
Ratings, data compilation and statistics can be tricky. Sometimes, sources contradict one another. According to the CIA Factbook, the US enjoys 99 percent literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
But contradicting this, the NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) administered tests which revealed in 2008 that an estimated 14% of US residents would have extreme difficulty with reading and written comprehension (http://www.caliteracy.org/rates/). It’s not clear whether which of those tested were born in a country other than the US.
To overcome this type of discrepancy, students, academics and statisticians look for a range of estimates.