I think about this all the time: how where a person is born determines so much about her future. Poverty and the opportunity to leave it, education, health care - the rights and options of people with disabilities - freedom of personhood and conscience - reproductive freedom. Childhood! Having one at all, rather than being forced into a sweatshop, or sex work, or killing. So many basic human rights from which our lives flow are pre-determined by where a person is born.
This is a terrible fact. But why should this be true within one country? From The Independent, via AMERICAblog, via James, emphasis mine.
The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.
The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid agency approach to measuring well-being – more familiar to observers of the Third World – with shocking results. The US finds itself ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.
Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered free enterprise is the best way to lift Americans out of poverty, the report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen inequalities.
"The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the authors said.
Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved since the 1970s.
Long ago, a wmtc reader tried to sell the idea that the US and Canada were the same. (He turned out to be a troll, temporarily disguised by his large vocabulary, but easily unmasked.)
When readers pointed to some basic differences between the two countries - health care, abortion rights, equality of sexual orientation - he argued that because those rights exist in some places within the United States, they therefore exist for the United States. For example, Vermont offers state-sponsored health insurance, therefore the US has universal health care. Abortion rights are secured in New York and California, therefore the US has reproductive freedom. Same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts, therefore...
As I had been helping women from abortion slave states who came to New York City to terminate pregnancies, this argument blew my mind. Had this guy ever seen a map?
What good do abortion rights in New York do for the woman in South Dakota? What good does Vermont's health insurance plan do for a family in Mississippi? Technically, Americans are free to move to any state they choose. But can a family be expected to roam the country trying to meet their basic needs and secure their basic freedoms? Who will fund these travels? Where will their children attend school?
In a place where many people can't afford the fuel or child care necessary to hold a job, because minimum wage is still under $6.00 an hour, the knowledge that some other state might offer a better life is little comfort. The study mentions "an almost cult-like devotion" to the free market. There's also the cult-like devotion to states' rights - federalism, in US parlance - which justifies these inequalities and locks them in place.
In my work for reproductive freedom, I would often marvel, is this one country or not? A co-author of the report referenced above says: "Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living." I would have to say "not".