Living Standards Have Improved Around The World

As the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum, circa 1800, virtually all countries had a life expectancy at or below 40 years; today, just six countries have a life expectancy below 60 years. Put another way, a daughter born into a family in Lesotho or the Central African Republic — the countries with the lowest life expectancy today, each at around 53 years — can expect to live a longer and healthier life than the newborn daughter of an Englishman or American in the year 1800.

Tony Morley – 9 astonishing ways that living standards have improved around the world

A recent article focused on what should be apparent to any objective observer – that is, living standards have never been better. While most people if asked, believe the world has gotten worse, the article provides nine ways that our living standards have improved around the globe. The quote above focuses on the first one, increased life expectancy. We will likely see this continue, as many innovations promise to drive our healthy life extension. The second area of improvement is extreme poverty, a fate that everyone experienced through most of human history.

Global extreme poverty began to decline in the early years of the 17th century but gathered the greatest pace from 1950 onward, as globalization began to accelerate the trade and exchange of knowledge, technology, resources, and services.

Tony Morley – 9 astonishing ways that living standards have improved around the world

Per the article, In the seven decades since 1950, global extreme poverty has declined from 63% to roughly 9.5% in 2015. Third up is indoor air pollution. Burning low quality solid fuels indoors had health impacts for a long time. But as incomes in low-income countries grow, a switch can gradually be made from the most polluting and dangerous heating and cooking fuels (wood, charcoal, and coal) to incrementally cleaner fuels, like kerosene and ethanol.

From 2000 to 2020, the share of the population with access to clean fuels for cooking climbed steadily from 49.5% to 69%. Indoor air gets even cleaner as people get access to electricity.

Tony Morley – 9 astonishing ways that living standards have improved around the world

Number four on the list is food and famine. While famine has been common throughout human history, the author points to four forces that transformed the food system: the production of synthetic fertilizers; high-yielding crop varieties; increased globalization and trade; and mass agricultural industrialization and mechanization. Between the 1860s and 1940s, global famines claimed, on average, about 57 lives per 100,000. From the 1950s to 2016, it was just 14.4 lives per 100,000, a reduction of about 75% from historical figures. The fifth area is vaccination.

Few innovations have saved more than a billion lives, but vaccinations definitely have (along with clean water, better sanitation, and synthetic fertilizers).

Tony Morley – 9 astonishing ways that living standards have improved around the world

Next is literacy. The world has increasingly grown its knowledge base. an estimated 130 million books have been written. But for most of human history, people have been illiterate. Today we live in the most educated and literate time in human history, with most of the world literate. Number seven on the list is safe water and sanitation. People living in the 18th century did not have access to what we now take for granted.

Globally, the share of the population with access to safely managed water grew from 62% in 2000 to 74% in 2021, and access to sanitation improved from 29% in 2000 to 54% in 2020.

Tony Morley – 9 astonishing ways that living standards have improved around the world

Some have called the eighth area one of our greatest achievements; reducing child mortality. The pre-industrial era saw child mortality rates of 40%. From roughly 1860 to 1920, child mortality fell from more than 40% to roughly 30% globally. By 1986, the global rate was just 9.86%, and by 2021 it fell to 3.7%. Lastly, is economic growth. Beginning in the 1800s, the modern era of economic growth was born. As a result, the world escaped the Malthusian trap and embarked on an increasingly prosperous path

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