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Standards of living: a comparison

All data comes from the World Bank's Data Group, and can be accessed at http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/DATASTATISTICS/0,,contentMDK:20... (accessed 11/20/09). Least developed countries is a United Nations category. List of countries is available at http://www.unohrlls.org/en/ldc/related/62/ (accessed 11/20/09).

U.S.A. Least developed countries World
% without access to a latrine or toilet 0% of urban residents and 1% of rural residents 51% of urban residents and 73% of rural residents 22% of urban residents and 66% of rural residents
Telephone lines per 100 people 140 16 71
% of households with television 98% 16.5%1 -
Health expenditure per person $6,719 $20 $724
Under-5 mortality rate 8 per 1,000 130 per 1,000 68 per 1,000
Malnutrition prevalence, weight for age (% of children under 5) 1.3% 30.7% 23%
% without access to quality water source 6% of rural residents and 0% of urban residents 45% of rural residents and 19% of urban residents 32% of rural residents and 4% of urban residents

The difference between poverty in the U.S. and in the world's poorest countries is illustrated by how "hunger" is discussed in each context. In 2007, the most recent year for which detailed data seems to be available, 1 out of 145 adults and 1 out of 476 children were hungry on an average day.2 (Food insecurity rose in the U.S. in 2008 from 11.1% to 14.6%,3 so prevalence of hunger may be slightly higher now.) In the least developed countries, 1 out of every 3 people is undernourished,4 meaning that their "dietary energy consumption is continuously below a minimum dietary energy requirement for maintaining a healthy life and carrying out a light physical activity."5

  • 1.

    The World Bank did not calculate an average for television ownership for the least developed country category. We calculated a population-weighted average based on 2008 population data from Gap Minder (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ, accessed 11/23/09) and country-level television ownership data from the World Bank. Data was missing for 19 of 49 countries.

  • 2.

    Average daily prevalence of "Respondent hungry but didn't eat because couldn't afford": 0.69
    Average daily prevalence of "Child(ren) were hungry": 0.21

    From U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2007. "Household Food Security in the United States." Available online at http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR66/ERR66.pdf, accessed 11/24/09. See Pg 48, Table A-5.

  • 3.

    "About 14.6 percent of U.S. households, equal to 49.1 million people, "had difficulty obtaining food for all their members due to a lack of resources" during 2008, up 3.5 percentage points from 2007 when 11.1 percent of households were classified as food insecure." From Reuters. "One in seven Americans short of food." 16 Nov 2008. Available online at http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE5AF42220091116, accessed 11/24/09.

  • 4.

    Country-level undernutrition prevalence data is available from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization at http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/food-security-statistics/en/ (accessed 11/23/09). We calculated a population-weighted average based on 2008 population data from Gap Minder (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ, accessed 11/23/09). Data was missing for 5 of 49 countries.

  • 5.

    From FAO (http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/food-security-statistics/food-security-s..., accessed 11/23/09):
    "Undernourishment refers to the condition of people whose dietary energy consumption is continuously below a minimum dietary energy requirement (MDER) for maintaining a healthy life and carrying out a light physical activity."