Society report card gives Canada a B grade, flunks the U.S.

Canada is neither an overachiever nor an underachiever when it comes to its grade for how it treats its own citizens, according to a report released today.

The "society report card", an annual ranking of 17 industrialized nations compiled by the Conference Board of Canada, gives Canada a "solid B grade". Canada ranked seventh overall, sharing the B with Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Australia.

Six countries—Netherlands, Austria, and all four Nordic nations: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden—received As. The U.K. and Italy each got a C, and the U.S. and Japan shared bottom spot with a D apiece.

The Conference Board, a Canadian nonprofit research group that specializes in economic trends, based its latest rankings—which you can read online—on information supplied by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The board stated in the report that low rankings in key indicator areas such as income inequality and poverty are what keep Canada from joining the top ranks of European countries.

According to the report:

"Canada ranks 12th on the income inequality indicator. Income inequality rose markedly in the 1990s before stabilizing in the early 2000s. Since 1990, the richest 20 per cent of Canadians has increased its share of total national income, while the poorest and middle-income groups lost share.…

"Canada ranks 15th on both child poverty and working-age poverty indicators. The child poverty rate of 15.1 per cent is higher than it was in the mid-1990s. Canada’s rate of working-age poverty increased from 9.4 per cent in the mid-1990s to 11.1 per cent in the late 2000s. Compared to its peers, Canada had the third highest increase in the working-age poverty rate during this period. As a result, Canada’s grade for this indicator slipped from a ‘C’ to a ‘D’ ".

The report card also gave Canada a C grade for its citizens’ level of confidence in Parliament: "Canadians today have less confidence in parliament than they did in the past. The share of respondents reporting a high level of confidence fell from 42 per cent in 1982 to 38 per cent in 2006."

But it wasn’t all negative:

"Although Canada has a high level of income inequality compared to most of its peers, it surpasses most other countries in intergenerational income mobility. Canada earns an "A" grade and ranks 5th of 13 peer countries on this indicator. Intergenerational income mobility can be seen as a measure of equality of opportunity, as it measures how likely individuals are to remain in the same income class as their parents."

The board also reported that Canada’s citizens rated first in their acceptance of diversity and got "top marks" in categories such as elderly poverty rate, the income gap between able-bodied and disabled workers, the suicide rate, and life satisfaction.

The board noted that the United States is "by far the worst performer overall".

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