NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doing Better at Century's End

December 28, 1999

The end of the millennium -- which of course isn't even this year, but next year -- has some in a fin de siecle funk, spreading doom and gloom. But a new study from the late Julian L. Simon of the University of Maryland and Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute is loaded with figures suggesting things have never been better in America.

For one thing, comparing the period 1900-1920 and 1995-1998, life expectancy has increased from 47 years to 77 years, while infant mortality has plummeted from 100 per 100,000 births to just seven. Furthermore:

  • Per capita Gross Domestic Product has grown from $4,800 (in 1998 dollars) to $31,500.
  • The manufacturing wage, in 1998 dollars, has jumped from $3.40 per hour to $12.50 per hour.
  • The poverty rate as a percentage of households has dropped from 40 percent to just 13 percent.

The world is safer: there are 34 deaths per 100,000 people as opposed to 88 in the 1900-1920 period. It's cleaner: air pollution in lead micrograms per 100 cubic meters has gone from 135 in 1977 to four. And it's brighter: in 1900-1920, just eight percent of households had electricity. Now the figure is 99 percent.

Other figures worth noting when comparing 1900-1920 with 1995-1998:

  • There were 25,000 patents granted during the first two decades of the century, compared with 150,000 just between '95 and '98.
  • Only one percent of households owned a car between 1900 and 1920; now it's 91 percent.
  • Black annual per capita income in 1997 dollars went from $1,200 to $12,400.

And simply comparing 1980 with 1995-1998, computer ownership has leaped from one percent of households to 44 percent, while computer speed has increased from .02 MIPS (millions of instructions per second) in 1977 to 700 MIPS.

Source: Macroscrope, "It's A Wonderful Life," Investor's Business Daily , December 28, 1999.

For Cato text

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-364es.html

 

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