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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Good and Bad News

First a quick word of welcome to another EU blogger, Mats Lind who has a Different Opinion . Mats has actually been around for a while, but I only just cottoned-on. More to the point Mats has a couple of posts worth considering. One which comes via Abiola concerns the 'bang for buck' (I think we need to change this phrase, it reminds me too much of Last Exit to Brooklyn) delivery of US education:

"The United States spent $10,240 per student from elementary school through college in 2000, according to the report. The average was $6,361 among more than 25 nations. Yet the United States finished in the middle of the pack in its 15-year-olds' performance on math, reading and science in 2000, and its high-school graduation rate was below the international average in 2001"

The other (and this is the good and bad news bit) comes from the latest figures for US infant mortality. The good bit is that it is coming down, the bad bit is 'look where it's coming from'.

"The U.S. rate in 2001 -- the latest data available -- fell to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births from 6.9 the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate has declined 38 percent since 1983, when it was 10.9 per 1,000 live births. It has dropped to an all-time low in each of the last four years after a brief plateau in 1997 and 1998". Despite the improvements, the U.S. rate is more than twice that of other developed countries. In Sweden, for example, the rate was 3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000, the latest data available from the United Nations.
Source: AP, via Different Opinion

Now before we get too shirty over here in Europe we need to ask ourselves what these numbers mean. Some silly people in the US love to laugh at the Swedes. They should remember the old Chinese proverb that "when you point one finger at others, the other four actually point to you". So I don't think we should fall into their trap. I can think of two factors which may be relevant here. The first is the exraordinarily high level of immigration (and especially undocumented immigration) into the US in the 90s. Undocumented immigration implies fragility, and fragility can mean - among other things - higher than normal infant mortality. This can also impact itself on the school performace numbers as children using other languages and from other cultures enter the education system.

But this factor alone is not sufficient. Clearly the horribly low level of committment of the US system to welfare has its part in the explanation. The condition of the poorest 10% of American society is clearly important. Bush came to power on the promise of improving the US educational system: this is a promise we don't seem to hear too much about these days.

BTW: On the subject of new European Blogs, Euro Pundit David Weman is suggesting a complete list of 'euro level' blogs in his latest post at Fistful of Euros . So any suggestions please go over and post in the comments section. Meantime to correct an ommission (I think I am a bit slow sometimes) welcome to the other members of the Fistful team. Mathew Turner , Jurjen Smies , Tobias Swarz , Scott Martens , Iain Coleman , and Nick Barlow . Ok, that's it. You're blogrolled.

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