July 2, 2016 10:00 pm -

Finland is number one, and the U.S. is 19th.

“The Social Progress Index proves that GDP is not destiny,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, the US-based nonprofit behind the rankings. “We need more countries to be like Costa Rica, which squeezes a lot of social progress out of its modest GDP.”


Costa Rica’s modest GDP per capita is just US$14,232, but the nation amounts to the world’s biggest over-achiever when it comes to social progress measures. Costa Rica came in at 28th on the list of 133 countries ranked in the report, but it’s surrounded by significantly wealthier counterparts. We’ve posted an infographic below (high-res version here), summarising many of the key findings.

And while the US at 19th may be almost 10 spots higher on the list – having dropped three positions since its 2015 ranking – when you consider the nation’s dramatically greater GDP of US$52,118, it’s a result that the Social Progress Imperative describes as ultimately “disappointing”.



“It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that this is yet another disappointing result for the US and that citizens are getting a pretty raw deal when it comes to translating the country’s wealth into social progress,” said Green.

According to the researchers, the US is the only major western democracy ranking among the most significant under-performers – relative to GDP – putting it alongside China, Russia, Iran, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.