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The Social Progress Index

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I was reviewing the social progress index report that was released earlier this month and since the U.S. and Canada share borders, I thought it would be interesting to compare stats.

To quote from the report: "Economic development is necessary but not sufficient for social progress. A country’s overall level of development masks social and environmental strengths and challenges. At a disaggregated level, the social progress index shows areas of underperformance and success for countries at all income levels."

These stats are quite interesting and a few are surprising.

Overall, they stand up like this:

Social Progress Index

Canada - 7th U.S. 16th (Iran is 94th)

If we break it down further:

Basic Human Needs

Canada - 11th U.S. 23rd

Foundations of Well Being

Canada - 17th U.S. 36th

Opportunity

Canada - 2nd U.S. - 5th

We can further breakdown these scores as follows:

Calculated Scores:

Tolerance and Incusion

Canada - 86.79 U.S. - 74.22

Eco System sustainability (The U.S. beats us in this category)

Canada - 53.78 U.S. - 59.21

Personal safety

Canada - 91.58 U.S. - 77.70

Personal freedom and choice

Canada - 91.14 U.S. - 84.29

Health and wellness

Canada - 80.78 U.S. - 73.61

Access to advanced education (The U.S. beats us here)

Canada - 82.21 U.S. - 89.37

Eco system sustainability looks to be the one that needs much improvement in both countries.

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Some might take the view this index shows Canada is losing the race to the bottom. Beatings will continue until morale improves.

Seriously though, it doesn't look like eco-system sustainability will be deemed important until such time as our economy acknowledges it's dependence on natural capital. At this point most economists don't even recognize the term natural capital because they're taught the natural world is quite literally external to our human economy. It's a convenient fiction that I think belongs in the same class that equates a corporation to a person or money to free speech. The really hard-boiled view is that the natural world will have to adapt to our unlimited growth rather than us adapting to...reality.

I don't know what else to blame this capacity for delusion and suspending disbelief on other than eons of religiously enculturated modes of thinking. We might as well be sacrificing this world to Mammon secure in our beliefs it really doesn't matter because God has a new one waiting for us up in Heaven.

Edited by eyeball

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The US beats us on personal freedom? I can accept that. Beating us on tolerance and personal safety? I'd need to now how they calculate that. I also question the UAE having a higher score than Israel. The UAE is an autocratic nation which puts people in prison if it finds them kissing. Sex outside of marriage (straights only) can draw the death penalty. This is considered socially enlightened? They still use whips (corporal punishment) for a variety of offenses. If so much as a grain of marihuana is found on the bottom of your shoe you can go to prison for YEARS. No excuses.

Edited by Charles Anthony
deleted entire Opening Post re-copied in quotes

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I caught the interview with Micjheal Porter on GPS this am. One thing that piqued my interest was the stats on how much money the US spends on health care to deliver such poor outcomes. I'm sure this will fire up the discussion on the for profit health care hodge podge vs for instance the socialized type we have in Canada.

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I don't think it will stir much debate. Why would we pay attention to magical numbers when we don't pay attention to concrete measures such as ER wait times?

This may, however, provide kool aid for the canada US inferiority complex party.

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I don't think it will stir much debate. Why would we pay attention to magical numbers when we don't pay attention to concrete measures such as ER wait times?

This may, however, provide kool aid for the canada US inferiority complex party.

These aren't exactly "magical numbers." They're based on comparable statistics, such as child mortality rate, deaths from infectious diseases, access to piped water, quality of electricity supply, homicide rate, traffic deaths, adult literacy rate, school enrolment, number of mobile phone users, greenhouse gas emissions, property rights, number of globally ranked universities, average years of tertiary schooling, etc. There's nothing magical about it. It's a scale built up from measurable indicators.

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These aren't exactly "magical numbers." They're based on comparable statistics, such as child mortality rate, deaths from infectious diseases, access to piped water, quality of electricity supply, homicide rate, traffic deaths, adult literacy rate, school enrolment, number of mobile phone users, greenhouse gas emissions, property rights, number of globally ranked universities, average years of tertiary schooling, etc. There's nothing magical about it. It's a scale built up from measurable indicators.

Well, yes, it is magical for a few reasons:

- There's no mention of input on those numbers from "the" public that this information is meant for

- The methodology is complex, and difficult to understand - even if it's explained clearly (via a diagram) on the site. I didn't find the methodology explained to detail though.

- Source of the data isn't clear, and couldn't possibly allow for apples to apples comparison.

- Mapping two numbers to a single number necessarily involves a values assessment of which quality is more important to the reader. That measure of subjectivity introduces doubt into the numbers.

- So, again we're back to collaboration, transparency, accountability and usability.

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Are you under the mistaken impression that statistics is objective?

No - but the dichotomy is that numbers don't lie either. I think these people are on the right track, generally, but they haven't provided collaboration, transparency, accountability and usability.

Once they figure out that message, then those of us outside the spires of the university can maybe get behind these things more.

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I don't know anything about the authors but if taken at face value, the report shows that Canada is an exceptional country (we knew that <_< ) - especially in the area of opportunity where we rank 2nd. Yet after 8 years of Conservative rule that helped drive these numbers to where they are today, somehow - since the Conservatives took power - there has been a continuous droning from the Left that Canada has been going down the wrong path.

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I don't think it will stir much debate. Why would we pay attention to magical numbers when we don't pay attention to concrete measures such as ER wait times?

You just have to look at the methodology of how the arrived at the numbers. Like, how do you operationalize "economic freedom" etc. into measurable statistics.

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Like, how do you operationalize "economic freedom" etc. into measurable statistics.

I didn't find anything on the site that easily described such things. I'm wondering if your response is just super dry humour.

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Granted, the social progress index is in it's infancy but it will surely be improved on in the coming years and there needs to be a better understanding of what this index is used for.

The Social Progress Imperative which was previously called the Global Social Progress Initiative will use this index to help to further advance global human wellbeing by reshaping the debate about development. It's mission is:

"To improve the lives of people around the world, particularly the least well off, by helping government, the private sector and the nonprofit sector to collaborate more effectively and make better use of the resources available to solve pressing social and environmental problems. Our goal is to effect this change by providing those stakeholders with useful, timely information to help them make better choices".

The index seems to be a good starting point to help improve the world in which we live. Measuring the progress of a country strictly by GDP does not accurately measure how a country performs.

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Eco system sustainability looks to be the one that needs much improvement in both countries.

Why? The only way you could get 100 is by relying 100% on renewables... but why would you want to do that? Why not use both renewables and non-renewables? The cost savings that come from using more efficient non-renewable energy courses can help finance the advancement of humanity and eventually start space colonization.

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I don't know anything about the authors but if taken at face value, the report shows that Canada is an exceptional country (we knew that <_< ) - especially in the area of opportunity where we rank 2nd. Yet after 8 years of Conservative rule that helped drive these numbers to where they are today, somehow - since the Conservatives took power - there has been a continuous droning from the Left that Canada has been going down the wrong path.

nice cherry pick! Canada's 7th place ranking is principally due to that Opportunity category... meanwhile, in the other major categories, Canada ranks 17th in the Foundations of Wellbeing category and 11th in Basic Human Needs. Considering the Opportunity category derives from the sub-categories Personal Rights, Personal Freedom of Choice, Tolerance & Inclusion and Access to Advanced Education, I'm not particularly aware of any striking Harper Conservative actions, as you say, "driving those sub-category numbers. Please educate me!

when you drill-down into some of the major categories, there are some very abysmal (and outright embarassing) numbers for Canada; example:

- water and sanitation: 35th

- access to piped water: 49th

- rural versus urban access to improved water source: 37th

- access to information and communications: 20th

- biodiversity and habitat: 76th

- maternal mortality rate: 29th

- mobile telephone subscriptions: 99th

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Hmmmm.... maybe if we framed the ER wait times question as some kind of competitive thing we'd get more interest in it, I'm thinking.

of course, as I'm sure you're aware, the granularity isn't there to the level of 'ER wait times'... but I think I get your drift, particularly in how 'ER wait times' has been so often framed in many past MLW threads. And yes, as I infer from your comment, the apparent 'lack of interest' might relate to how this type of opportunity for broader, higher-level country comparisons (say Canada to the U.S.), gets ignored by those proponents who instead favour pushing/flogging lower-level metric comparisons (like ER wait times).

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of course, as I'm sure you're aware, the granularity isn't there to the level of 'ER wait times'...

Depending on what you mean, it IS actually. CIHI aggregates these per province and releases the numbers regularly to the utter apathy of those who would rather use healthcare discussion as a forum for talking about why we're better than the USA.

but I think I get your drift, particularly in how 'ER wait times' has been so often framed in many past MLW threads. And yes, as I infer from your comment, the apparent 'lack of interest' might relate to how this type of opportunity for broader, higher-level country comparisons (say Canada to the U.S.), gets ignored by those proponents who instead favour pushing/flogging lower-level metric comparisons (like ER wait times).

I don't know about "lower level". Are ER wait times lower, whatever that means, than "rural versus urban access to improved water source" ? They certainly are more relevant to most Canadians.

My point, though, is that people get excited and participate when the question is about national pride, or ... I don't even know ... something to argue identity over in some way. There is an opportunity to "right size" the public participation with the scale of government, and in addition an opportunity to find a public that is nerdy enough to provide oversite to mundane things such as operations, budgets and so on. This nerdy public is my brothers & sisters in the open government movement.

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Depending on what you mean, it IS actually. CIHI aggregates these per province and releases the numbers regularly to the utter apathy of those who would rather use healthcare discussion as a forum for talking about why we're better than the USA.

my context was within the purview of the Social Progress Index report/study... that the granularity within it, doesn't extend to the lower-level of a metric like your 'ER wait times' example. My response to you in regards you questioning interest was in that same vein; more pointedly, to an apparent lack of interest in comparative country review (say, Canada versus the U.S.).

in any case, that's an interesting perspective you hold. My alternate strong recollection, particularly in terms of the type of study/report that lends itself to Canada versus U.S. healthcare discussion/comparison, is that the broader level of comparative discussion of healthcare systems is the one that gets ignored (by some members). That is to say, discussions on the broader higher-level category summations that showcase overall system failings/deficiencies are purposely derailed/avoided/ignored, to instead, flog/beat on, the low-hanging fruit metrics... like ER wait times.

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my context was within the purview of the Social Progress Index report/study... that the granularity within it, doesn't extend to the lower-level of a metric like your 'ER wait times' example.

This is true.

in any case, that's an interesting perspective you hold. My alternate strong recollection, particularly in terms of the type of study/report that lends itself to Canada versus U.S. healthcare discussion/comparison, is that the broader level of comparative discussion of healthcare systems is the one that gets ignored (by some members).

Sure... but you're already entering into the more combative, and therefore more interesting, arena of comparing national systems. I think our system doesn't get enough discussion on its own, that the problems should be dealt with aside from national comparisons. But that's just not interesting to non-nerds.

That is to say, discussions on the broader higher-level category summations that showcase overall system failings/deficiencies are purposely derailed/avoided/ignored, to instead, flog/beat on, the low-hanging fruit metrics... like ER wait times.

I don't think broader statistics would be interesting either if we just looked at our national numbers.

Your point on high vs low level is true.

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