NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 25, 2004

One might think from watching the nightly news that America and the world are in decline. But the few bad news stories that attract viewers often skew the big picture, says the Wall Street Journal.

John F. McDonald, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, however, says that in many ways life in America has improved over several decades:

  • Life expectancy has increased for all, particularly for black men; their life expectancy has increased from 60 years in 1970 to 68.2 in 2000.
  • In spite of stories of public education failures, 25 percent of Americans over 25 now have college degrees, up from 7.7 percent in 1960.
  • Only 12.1 percent of American families live in poverty, compared to about 22 percent in 1960.
  • Violent crime has declined dramatically -- the murder rate now stands at 10.2 per 100,000 people, almost half of what it was in 1980.

Moreover, Kay Hymowitz (of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal) says family values are in -- youth violence, drug use, and pregnancy have declined and Americans are favoring more self-restraint, responsibility and commitment.

Additionally, global issues show a positive trend as well: Statistician Bjorn Lomborg notes that starvation has declined in developing countries from 35 percent in 1970 to 18 percent in 1996, and is expected to reach 12 percent by 2010. Reforms in countries such as China have increased per capita incomes and average years of schooling.

Source: George Melloan, "Forget the Nightly News; Life is Getting Better," Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2004; John F. McDonald, "The Glad Game: The Decline of Social and Economic Problems in America," Milken Institute Review, June 2004; and Kay Hymowitz, "It's Morning After in America," City Journal, Spring 2004, Manhattan Institute.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB109269727568392976,00.html

For Milken Institute text (registration required):

For City Journal text


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