Moral Low Ground

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U.S. Incarceration Rate 5.4 Times O.E.C.D. Average; Social Spending 9th from Last

A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that the United States has the highest percentage of citizens behind bars in the entire developed world, while ranking 9th from last in social spending, Business Insider reports.

(Photo: Ca. Dep't. of Corrections)

Out of every 100,000 Americans, an astonishing 760 are locked up. The OECD average is 140/140,000. The US incarcerates 5.4 times the OECD mean. South Africa, which suffers from a raging crime epidemic, is the only other country that even approaches the US imprisonment rate, with 329 out of every 100,000 citizens behind bars.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the United States ranks 9th from last in social spending. And while the US spends 16% of its GDP on health care– the most of any nation on earth– it ranks low in terms of health care accessibility. Perhaps that is because the US is the only one of the 34 OECD countries without government-run universal healthcare.

Some other findings from the study:

-Although Americans spend the least time cooking and eating, 34% of its citizens are obese– twice the OECD average.

-At $31 000, the United States has the second highest household income
after taxes and benefits in the OECD, after Luxembourg. But US income is distributed
relatively unequally, with both the fourth highest rate of income inequality and relative
poverty (17.3% of people poor compared to an OECD average of 11.1%) in the OECD.

-While the United States is often considered a country of immigrants and has 13.7% of its population foreign born, 11 out of 34 OECD countries have a higher foreign-born population share.

-People in the United States have a life expectancy of 77.9 years, lower than the OECD
average of 79.3 years, despite having the highest public and private spending on health at 16 percent of GDP, considerably higher than the OECD average of 9 percent.

-The United States leads the OECD in citizens volunteering time, giving money, and
helping strangers. 60% of Americans undertook such activities in the previous month,
compared to an OECD average of 39%.

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