America – The Not-So-Great

Just wanted to share an essay I wrote for my university English class. It’s not perfect and I’m too lazy to format it for the blog so it’ll stay in APA format. As you will notice, I am not a fan of this country. I would much rather live somewhere else. But, this is where my family is… So I’ll stay here for a bit. This essay, however, is not based on my opinion, just on statistics from some reputable sources. If I based it on my opinion I would probably piss some people off.  =P Anyways, thanks for reading!


As someone who grew up in the United States, I don’t think I could count how many times I have heard the saying “America is the greatest country.” The most common justification people give when saying how great America is, is freedom. But, I do not think that freedom makes up for all the disadvantages of living in the United States. And not only that, the U.S. is not the only free country.

The United States is behind many other countries when it comes to healthcare, education, work-life balance, and life satisfaction. However, we do rank high when it comes to income and housing. But, making a good amount of money and having a large house does not add up to a good quality of life. Therefore when considering overall quality of life, America is not the greatest country.

Freedom. Americans boast about freedom like we are the only ones in the world who are free. Yet, we are only one out of 88 countries who are considered free according to Freedom House (2014). Freedom House conducts an annual report, Freedom of the World, on global freedom, this report analyzes political rights and civil liberties through a “variety of open-source information” (2014).

Our health and health care system is behind many other developed countries. In a ranking of 48 developed countries done by Bloomberg on health care efficiency, America ranked third to last place (2013). According to Bloomberg, “Each country was ranked on three criteria: life expectancy (weighted 60%), relative per capita cost of health care (30%); and absolute per capita cost of health care (10%). Countries were scored on each criterion and the scores were weighted and summed to obtain their efficiency scores.” We had the highest relative cost for health care($8,608) and the second highest health care cost per capita(17.2%). Despite that, we only ranked 24th for life expectancy with an average lifespan of 78.6 years. In general, Americans spend much more on healthcare compared to other countries, yet we have lifespan that is comparable to Chile and Czech Republic who only spend $1,075 and $1,507 per capita respectively.

The education system in America isn’t entirely bad, but it definitely is not the best. We have some of the best universities in America. Seven of the top ten universities worldwide are in the U.S. including California Institute of Technology (1st), Harvard University (tied with University of Oxford for second), and Stanford University (3rd)(Times Higher Education, 2014). However, when you look at the education system as a whole you can see there is much room for improvement.

Out of 34 countries evaluated by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) the U.S. ranked below average for math and average for both reading and science (PISA, 2012). Similar to the health issue, we spend more per student than countries who rank next to us. We spend more than $115,000 per student compared to the Slovak Republic who spends an average of $53,000 per student and performs at the same level. Furthermore, Korea who ranks the highest in math, spend well below the OECD (Organization for Economic and Co-operation and Development) average (PISA, 2012). Education has always been important, but it has become even more important due to a decline in manual labor, as it is even harder nowadays for a less educated person to find a decent job (OECD, 2014).

When looking at the overall work-life balance in America, we are more average. We spend less time devoted to personal care and more time working to earn a living. Compared to many other developed countries, America is far behind when it comes to providing vacation time and paid holidays. A study done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that America is the only country out of 21 rich countries who has no laws in place requiring employers to provide paid annual vacation leave or holidays (2013). The differences are shocking, with the European Union requiring all employees to be given no less than 20 days of paid leave, and even Japan and Canada provide at least 10 days of paid vacation (CEPR, 2013). See figure 1 for the days provided by each country.

no-vacation-update-2013-05_004 (2)

Figure 1 Number of Paid Vacation and Holidays by Country

Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research

 

Along with the lack of paid vacation, most American women get no paid maternity leave. “The United States, along with Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia and Lesotho are some of the only countries in the world that provide no type of financial support for mothers…” (The Huffington Post, 2012). Not only is maternity leave unpaid, it is much shorter than 42 other developed countries at only 12 weeks. To put this into contrast, the United Kingdom gives 52 weeks at 90% pay and Canada gives 52 weeks at 55% pay for the first 17 weeks (The Huffington Post, 2012). Clearly, the U.S. is far behind when it comes to providing its people with time away from work.

Life satisfaction is another area that the U.S. seems to not be getting right. We fall in 14th place in the OECD Better Life Index, far below Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland.  There is a decent gap between how happy the rich are compared to the poor. This might seem reasonable, but when you look at some of the top rated countries the gap is much smaller (OECD, 2013). Furthermore, according to a survey done by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, America didn’t even rank in the top 15 for happiness. We ranked 17th, which was just after Mexico at 16th place. Northern European countries topped this chart as well (Gates, 2013).

As you can see, America has a ways to go before it can be considered “the greatest country in the world”. But we have the resources to improve. As what Will said in what is known as “the most honest three minutes in television history”: “First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” (The Newsroom, 2012).

Works Cited

Freedom House (2014). Freedom in the World FAQ | Freedom House. Retrieved from http://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world-2014/freedom-world-faq#Q1

Freedom House (2014). Freedom in the world. Retrieved from http://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/Freedom%20in%20the%20World%202014%20Booklet.pdf

Gates, S. (2013). World Happiness Report 2013 Ranks Happiest Countries Around Globe. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/09/world-happiness-report-happiest-countries_n_3894041.html

The Huffington Post (2012, October 24). Maternity Leaves Around The World: Worst And Best Countries For Paid Maternity Leave (PHOTOS). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/22/maternity-leaves-around-the-world_n_1536120.html

OECD (2012). Country note. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/PISA-2012-results-US.pdf

OECD (2014). Life satisfaction. Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/life-satisfaction/

OECD (2014). Education. Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/education/

Ray, R., Sanes, M., & Schmitt, J. (2013, May). No-Vacation nation revisited. Retrieved from http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/no-vacation-update-2013-05.pdf

Times Higher Education (2014). World University Rankings. Retrieved from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking

We Just Decided To. (2012, June 24). [Television series episode] In A.. Sortkin, S.. Rudin, & A.. Poul (Producers), The newsroom. HBO.

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