Good news: the world is improving…but progress is slow and uneven.
That’s according to the latest Social Progress Index, which aggregates 50 social and environmental outcome indicators from 163 countries in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity.
The index ranks the countries based on the concept that societies are successful not just through economic development, but by meeting the needs of the people to improve their quality of life with a healthy environment and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
While high-income countries tend to achieve higher social progress than low-income countries, the relationship is not linear, the report says.
Some countries are much better at turning their economic growth into social progress than others. The U.S., for example, the largest economy in the world, and eighth in the world for gross domestic power (purchasing power parity) ranks No. 28, performing worse than to be expected in areas such as health and wellness, personal safety, and environmental quality.
Costa Rica, on the other hand, with significantly lower GDP PPP per capita (about 28% of the U.S.) has a social progress score far closer to that of the U.S. and other more developed countries than to many of its economic peers. Costa Rica scores higher than the U.S. for health and wellness, environmental quality and personal rights, indicating that GDP is not destiny, the report says.
These are the 30 countries in the world highest on the social progress index, along with some of the areas in which each is overperforming and underperforming. Scores are 1-100, where one is poorest and 100 is best.