The American Dream Prosperity Index


U.S. Prosperity on the global stage



Both at home and abroad, 2022 was turbulent. In the United States (U.S.), Americans endured the Omicron variant, grappled with high and persistent inflation, and were financially squeezed by rising energy prices. Abroad, the Russian invasion of Ukraine shook the world, resulting in grain shortages and sanctions against Russian entities. As a result, global prosperity plateaued for the third straight year, as identified by the 2023 Legatum Prosperity Index[1].

Examining the long-term trends, the Index presents a mixed snapshot of the state of worldwide prosperity, with countries at the bottom of the Index falling further behind those at the top. This increasing prosperity gap is due to an increase in wars and civil conflict alongside a decline in personal freedoms.

In analyzing the prosperity of the United States, the Index reports an overall high ranking of 19th (out of 167 nations) in 2023, but it highlights considerable variation across different dimensions of prosperity.

The strength of the U.S. is its economy. Boasting the largest economy of all nations, it’s a world leader where businesses can start and expand, supported by readily available finance, resulting in ranking 3rd for the Enterprise Conditions pillar, and 1st for the Financing Ecosystems element.

Given the excellent market conditions for businesses, it is not a surprise that the U.S. also ranks 1st globally on start-ups and entrepreneurship (as revealed in the Dynamism element). The U.S. is also ranked 3rd in the world for the education level of its adult population, with a third of adults having achieved at least a bachelor’s degree, resulting in a 1st ranking for the Adult Skills element, enabling the provision of an educated workforce to support new and expanding businesses.

Despite a strong economic performance and a highly skilled workforce, the Index highlights an America that is facing some significant institutional and social challenges that are undermining its performance on the global stage. For example, high and increasing rates of homicide coupled with more prevalent and frequent mass shootings have resulted in America now ranking 69th for Safety and Security, nestled between Benin and Botswana, and 17 rankings lower than a decade previously.

America has the highest rate of substance use (alcohol and drug) disorders of any nation, together with high and rising rates of suicides and depressive disorders. These factors signpost an America that is struggling mentally and results in the country ranking 133rd globally for Mental Health. It is also the 2nd most obese nation, with 36% of its residents now identifying as obese and, although smoking rates have fallen, nearly one in four Americans (23%) still smoke, compared to 15% in the UK and 13% in Canada. These factors contribute to America’s overall ranking of 69th for Health, compared to 61st a decade previously.

The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, tested the country’s democratic resilience. Despite the severity of these events, America’s democracy remained intact, partly due to the bravery of Capitol police and public safety officers and the prosecution of perpetrators. However, the Index does reveal concerning longer-term trends on certain democratic aspects that may help contextualize the January 6th attack on the Capitol. For example, the extent to which people believe America’s political institutions are accountable has weakened over the past decade, resulting in the country falling from 15th to 41st in the global rankings for the Political Accountability element. Furthermore, research by the World Justice Project points to the checks and balances on the Executive Branch weakening over the past decade. In addition, U.S. media is experiencing greater restrictions, with more government redactions and a reduction in free opinion and expression, contributing to the U.S. falling from 20th globally to 26th globally for the Freedom of Speech and Access to Information element.

Just as there is considerable variation in prosperity across countries, the distribution of prosperity within a country can also vary significantly by place. The American Dream Prosperity Index (ADPI) has been intentionally created to explore how prosperity distributes across the 50 states, D.C., and nearly 1,500 counties across 17 selected states, to understand what is building prosperity and what is curtailing it across America. The ADPI brings clarity and locality to America’s Mental Health crisis and rising gun violence discussed earlier, to pinpoint exactly where these challenges are being experienced the most to help inform the best local solutions.

The ADPI, first released in 2019, has become a leading barometer on social and economic issues and offers a data-driven approach to transformation for government officials, business leaders, philanthropists, and individuals. The Index is a unique diagnostic tool to help shape agendas for transformation at the state and community level. The 2023 ADPI will be released in the Fall.

[1] The Global Prosperity Index has been produced annually since 2007 and analyzes the performance of 167 nations (including the United States) across 67 policy elements, measured by 300 bespoke indicators, grouped into 12 pillars, detailing a comprehensive picture of prosperity across institutional, economic, and social dimensions.

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