Americans are living longer, healthier lives than they did a generation ago. In 1980, life expectancy at birth was 73.7 years. Today, it’s 77.9 years. In addition, we enjoy prescription drugs that people in the 1970s couldn’t have dreamed of. There are pills to lower blood pressure, to control cholesterol, to reduce blood sugar. It’s easier than ever to be healthy.
Also, consider our homes.
Since 1979, the median size of newly built homes has increased almost by half, from an average 1,485 square feet to 2,140 feet. 90 percent of new homes have central air conditioning, something only 40 percent had in 1979. Homes such as those being built by the Hall family (with or without a mailbox) would have been eye-popping in the 1970s. Today they’re routine, and even a middle class family getting by on a government paycheck can afford them.
Meanwhile, Americans have pretty much defeated hunger.
In most countries, poor people live hand-to-mouth, never more than a meal or two away from hunger. But here, even poor children eat plentifully. Studies show they get twice as much protein as the USDA recommends.
As poverty expert Robert Rector testified before a House subcommittee this year, “Most poor children today are, in fact, supernourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.”
It doesn’t stop there, of course. Today our globalized economy allows us to enjoy electronic devices undreamed of decades ago. We take our easy and inexpensive international travel for granted. In short, virtually everything’s taken a giant leap forward. But somehow, we’re supposed to believe we’re worse off?
The American dream isn’t dead. It lives on in our bigger houses, our nicer cars, our longer, healthier lives. This generation will do better than the one before. That probably won’t make the papers. But you can count on it, even if you have to walk a block to get your mail.