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10 Best Countries In Which To Be Born in 2013 (Hint: America Isn't One Of Them)

A new quality-of-life index shows that when it comes to the best place to be born in 2013, the US is way behind.

As 2012 comes to a close, marking the finish of a year of economic upheaval around the world (with no clear end in sight), the Economist Intelligence Unit posed the question: Which child born next year will be more likely to have a good quality-of-life? And, perhaps most importantly, what person entering adulthood in the 2030s will be gladdest to live where she or he lives?

They call this the " born index” or "life satisfaction index," and it explains which countries lead the pack as the best place to be born in 2013.

America, which used to be number-one on this very same index back in 1988, has plummeted to number 16. It’s understandable in terms of our miserable healthcare system, growing social stratification and workplace policies; we hang out toward the bottom of the lists when it comes to maternal health, paid leave for parents or family sickness. And yes, we have zero mandatory vacation hours.

But there’s a lot more to this index. Here’s the methodology from the Economist Intelligence Unit. Readers may disagree with the importance of some of these (such as divorce rate, for instannce):

  • “material wellbeing" as measured by GDP per head (in $, at 2006 constant PPPS)
  • life expect­ancy from birth
  • quality of family life, based primarily on divorce rates
  • state of political freedoms
  • job se­curity (measured by the unemployment rate)
  • climate (measured by two variables: the average deviation of minimum and maximum monthly temperatures from 14 degrees Celsius and the number of months in the year with less than 30mm rainfall)
  • Personal physical security ratings (based primarily on recorded homicide rates and ratings for risk from crime and terrorism)
  • quality of community life (based on membership in so­cial organizations)
  • governance (measured by ratings for corruption)
  • gender equality (measured by the share of seats in parliament held by women)

Let’s look at this year's life satisfaction index and see which countries -- some predictable, some surprising -- do better than the US on this particular scale. 

Switzerland. "Boring" old Switzerland, with its pristine natural beauty, outstanding infrastructure, wealth and social safety net comes out on top. 

Here are some statistics about Switzerland from a separate measurement, the Better Life Index, which we wrote about earlier this year: 79% of working-age people in Switzerland have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 85% of men are in paid work, and 87% of adults aged 25-64 have earned a high-school equivalent degree, and it’s a “a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system.” When a new Swiss resident is born, his or her life expectancy reaches close to 83 years. All that mountain air and water seems to be nice for living standards, too: “97% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water.”

Australia and New Zealand. Oi! The land down under comes out on top, or second to the top, in the born index, for a number of reasons. With a high life expectancy and relatively high employment, civic and community participation are particularly high. According to the Better Life Index for Australia:

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Australia, where 97% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 91%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 95% during recent elections.

Not bad!

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