Just Sociology

Development and Underdevelopment in the United States: A Nuanced View

The United States is considered one of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world. Its economy, political system, and culture are admired and emulated by many nations.

However, beneath the surface of apparent development and affluence, there are signs of underdevelopment and inequality that challenge this perception. In this academic article, we will examine evidence for both the high levels of development and underdevelopment in the United States.

We will explore key indicators such as gross national income, wealth, education, health, and peace to paint a more nuanced picture of the American reality.

Gross National Income and Gross Domestic Product

Gross national income (GNI) and gross domestic product (GDP) are two of the most commonly used indicators of economic development. The United States has one of the highest GNI and GDP figures in the world, with a GNI of $22 trillion and a GDP of $21.4 trillion in 2019.

This puts the United States at the top of the list of countries in terms of economic output. However, it is important to note that GNI and GDP do not necessarily reflect the well-being of individuals or the level of development of a country.

These measures only consider the total value of goods and services produced within a countrys borders and do not account for income distribution, inequality, or social and environmental quality of life factors. Hence, high GNI and GDP figures do not necessarily translate into higher standards of living for the majority of the population.

Wealth Indicators

Another widely used indicator of development is wealth. According to the 2021 Credit Suisse World Wealth Report, the United States has the largest number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (people with a net worth of over $50 million) in the world.

The report also found that the number of millionaires in the country increased by over 1 million since 2019, reaching a total of 20.2 million in 2020. These figures reflect the concentration of wealth in a small group of people and do not reflect the well-being of the majority of the population.

The Human Development Index

The United Nations created the Human Development Index (HDI) as a more inclusive measure of development that accounts for income, education, and health. The HDI uses three key criteria: GNI per capita, education, and life expectancy.

The United States has a high HDI ranking of 17 out of 189 countries, indicating a high level of human development. However, when we look at more granular data, we see that there is still significant inequality and underdevelopment in certain areas of the country.

For example, some states have much higher HDI rankings than others, indicating a regional disparity in development.

The United States has VERY HIGH income and wealth inequalities

One of the most striking signs of underdevelopment in the United States is the high rate of income and wealth inequality. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States has the highest rate of income inequality among OECD countries.

The GINI coefficient, which measures income distribution, is higher in the United States than in any other OECD country. This means that a significant portion of the population lives in poverty, while a small percentage of the population is very wealthy.

Relatively low life expectancy and healthy life expectancy

Despite the high levels of economic output and development, the United States has relatively low life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization, life expectancy in the United States is 77.3 years, which is lower than the OECD average.

Furthermore, healthy life expectancy in the United States is only 68.5 years, indicating that Americans spend a significant portion of their lives in poor health. America has 1.5 million children of primary-school age out of school

Education is a key factor in development, and the United States has made significant progress in providing access to education to its citizens.

However, there are still significant gaps in educational attainment. According to the World Bank, there are 1.5 million primary-school-age children in the United States who are out of school.

This is a sign of underdevelopment and indicates that many children are not being provided with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

America is the 114th least peaceful country in the world

Finally, the United States ranks relatively low in the Global Peace Index, coming in at 114 out of 163 countries surveyed. This is due in part to high levels of violence, including gun-related deaths and police brutality.

Additionally, the United States spends more on its military than any other country in the world, indicating a focus on defense rather than peaceful coexistence with other nations. Conclusion:

In conclusion, while the United States is certainly a developed and prosperous country, there are signs of underdevelopment and inequality that must be addressed.

High levels of income and wealth inequality, low life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, education gaps, and violence all point to the need for further progress in the United States. Improved policies and greater attention to social and environmental indicators of development can help create a more just and equitable society for all Americans.

In summary, this article has provided a nuanced view of the development and underdevelopment of the United States, highlighting key indicators such as income and wealth, education, health, and peace. While the United States has made significant progress in many areas, there is still work to be done to address inequality and improve quality of life for all Americans.

As readers consider this information, it is important to remember that development is a complex and multifaceted issue, and progress requires a holistic approach that considers social, economic, and environmental factors.



What is the Human Development Index (HDI)? The HDI is a measure of development that accounts for income, education, and life expectancy.

2. What is the GINI coefficient?

The GINI coefficient is a measure of income distribution. A higher GINI coefficient indicates greater income inequality.

3. Why is there a significant gap in educational attainment in the United States?

There are several factors that contribute to educational gaps, including poverty, racial and ethnic inequality, funding disparities, and inadequate access to resources and services.


What does the Global Peace Index measure? The Global Peace Index measures a country’s level of peace and security, taking into account a range of indicators such as violence, crime, political instability, and military spending.

5. How can the United States address underdevelopment and inequality?

Addressing underdevelopment and inequality requires a multifaceted approach that includes policies and programs focused on education, healthcare, job creation, income distribution, and sustainable development.

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