Reasons why the world is better now than it has ever been


I started compiling this list after hearing neighborhood parents complain that it wasn’t safe for their kids to ride their bicycles in the neighborhood. I heard a father complain that children only play at organized “play dates” unlike when he was a kid and children could roam the neighborhood and make their own fun. I had a co-worker who complained that the ocean water was brown today unlike the crystal blue of his youth.

Undoubtedly, there are problems. But, the 24 hour news machine magnifies the incidents and reports ad nuseum. Crimes, which in the past would have been only of local interest, become fodder for every newspaper, television and radio program.

Here are a set of true statistics I collected from reputable sources in about 2 hours of Googling in mid 2005.

1. Violent Crime (Rape, robbery, assault and homicide) is at the lowest rates in thirty years. (US Dept. of Justice. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/viort.htm)

2. Air pollution has dramatically decreased since 1970. Airborne lead levels are down 96%. Automobile exhaust is 33 times cleaner than in 1965. (Foundation for Clean Air Progress http://www.cleanairprogress.org/clean-air-pollution/air-pollution-fact s.asp)

3. The abduction and murder of children is a rare event. Approximately 100 child abductions in the U.S. result in the death of the child each year. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCou ntry=en_US&PageId=242#3a)

Furthermore, fewer than 1 in 4 abductions are perpetrated by a stranger while almost 50% are perpetrated by a family member. (US Department of Justice. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/ibrs.htm)

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, of which John Walsh is a member of the board of directors, does not endorse “stranger-danger” programs.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children does not ascribe to the “stranger-danger” message. We have learned that children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might; therefore, it is a difficult concept for the child to grasp. It is much more beneficial to children to help them build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather than teaching them to be “on the look out” for a particular type of person. The “stranger-danger” message is not effective and, based on what we know about those who harm children, danger to children is greater from someone they or their family knows than from a “stranger.”

4. Infant mortality is at the lowest rate in history. Around the time of World War I, 1 in 10 babies born in the United States died before age 1. Today infant and child deaths are much less common. There are 7 infant deaths for every 1,000 babies born in the United States. In 2000, the death rate for children ages 1 to 4 was 0.3 per 1,000 population, down from 19.8 in 1900, a decrease of 98%. (Population Reference Bureau http://www.prb.org/AmeristatTemplate.cfm?Section=Mortality1&template=/ ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7912 )

5. Motor vehicle occupant fatality rates have declined by 24% since 1975. Pedestrians and cyclists struck by motor vehicles is also less commonly fatal, dropping 52% since 1975. (US Department of Transportation. http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/report.cfm?stateid=0&year=2003&title=Tre nds)

Admittedly, there are some negative reasons for this … many people walk and exercise much less than they did 30 years ago. And trauma medicine is better at keeping badly injured people alive.

6. The past century has seen average lifespan increase by 30 years. Seven of those years have been gained since 1970. ( Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/nvsr53_06t12.pdf)

7. In 1959, 39% of Americans were near or below the poverty level. Today, that number is nearly half, at 21%. Still a lot, but getting better. (US Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/histpov/hstpov6.html)

I’d love to add more factoids to this list, so if you have any good ones, send them along. And if you disagree and believe the world really is getting worse, send those along also.