Sunday is Mothers’ Day in America, and for millions of spouses and offspring, the quest of the ideal gift has been going on for some time now. Flowers are trite, jewelry is expensive and clothes are purchased with great trepidation because buying your size-6 mom a size-10 dress will get you sent to your room (or worse, if you’re a spouse). This year, why not get mom something that Save the Children’s latest study on motherhood suggests: a one-way ticket to one of the 32 countries that treat mothers better than America.
As with all surveys, knowing the methodology helps you understand just why Scandinavia always kicks ass and Somalia brings up the rear (hint: note the size of government in both instances). According to the charity, “The annual Mothers’ Index uses the latest data on women’s health, children’s health, educational attainment, economic well-being and female political participation to rank 179 countries and show where mothers and children fare best and where they face the greatest hardships.” If we were measuring how many malls Mom has within SUV range or how many times the kids voluntarily help with chores, we might get a different result.
Based on these criteria, though, the U.S. barely scrapes into the top 20 percent. We Yanks do OK on gross national income per capita at $53,470, which makes us sixth (just after Singapore at $54,040).
And I don’t think much of the idea of using number of seats held by women in the national legislature as a good measure of political influence. I mean, Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov has had the job since 1990 and keeps getting 90 percent of the vote in elections. In my book, that means he’s a dictator, and it doesn’t damn matter what the composition of the legislature is. It’s one-man one-vote, and he’s the man with the vote. Everyone, sit down and shut up.
Read more: You DON’T Have the Worst Mother Ever
The stat for expected years of formal education is a bit suspect, too. In the U.S., the number is 16.4 years, compared to 16.8 in Slovenia and 16.1 in Libya. You don’t have to know much about comparative educational systems to see the flaw here — it’s a question of quality. I don’t know enough about higher education in Slovenia nor in Libya to make a definitive judgment, but I can’t name a single university in either of those countries. The kids who attend madrasas, the Arabic word for any type of educational system, get rote learning of the Koran, but I can teach a parrot to recite scripture … is that really education?
I think we’re on much sounder, and therefore disappointing, ground when it comes to children’s well-being and maternal health. Both of these are measured by the death rate, which is just about as clear a signal as you can get. If women and children are dying in huge numbers relative to population, you’ve got a problem.
In the U.S., we have an under-5 infant mortality rate of 6.9 per 1,000. That puts us between Serbia and Macedonia at 6.6 and Slovakia at 7.2. Cuba, embargo and everything, is better at 6.2. Denmark is the highest in Scandinavia at 3.5, about half the U.S. rate.
As for the health of mothers, the lifetime maternal death risk in the U.S. is one death in 1,800. That ties the U.S. with China. Canada is 5,200 — almost three times better. Britain is 6,900 — closer to four times better. What’s embarrassing is that we are bested by nations like Moldova at 2,900, Iran at 2,000 and Albania at 2,800.
Like I said, different criteria would get you different results. Still, for the world’s only superpower to come in 33rd? Hell, we even play soccer better than that these days.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.