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Report: U.S. Social Health Ailing

October 12, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ The economy’s doing great, so America must be in dandy shape, right?

Wrong, say Fordham University researchers.

``The social health of the nation has not kept up with the recovery of the economy,″ said Marc Miringoff, director of the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy.

The institute releases its annual report card Monday on the country’s social health: quality-of-life issues such as poverty, education and unemployment. The nation scored a dismal 40 out of 100 points, a 1.2 point improvement over last year, Miringoff said.

``Although any improvement is a good sign, the overall picture in the 1990s is not very encouraging,″ he said.

This year’s report card looked at social health trends in 1995, based on analysis of government statistics.

Miringoff said lawmakers focus too much on the economy and not enough on social issues.

``We need a balanced portrait of the country,″ he said in a telephone interview from his Tarrytown office. ``We hear a lot about the stock market, a lot about productivity.″

``We need to hear more about wages, health insurance, affordable housing,″ he added.

The institute, which charts social health on a scale of 0 to 100 points, looks at 16 categories: infant mortality; child abuse; children in poverty; teen suicide; drug abuse; high school dropout rate; unemployment; average weekly earnings; health insurance coverage; poverty among those over 65; out-of-pocket health costs for those over 65; homicides; alcohol-related traffic fatalities; food stamp coverage; access to affordable housing; and the gap between rich and poor.

Of those 16 areas, the institute said six had improved, five worsened and five remained about the same when compared with last year’s report (which analyzed social health in 1994).

The areas of improvement: children in poverty; unemployment; poverty of those over 65; homicides; the gap between rich and poor; and alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

The five worsened areas: health insurance coverage; drug abuse; average weekly wages; high school dropout rates; and food stamp coverage.

This is the 11th year the institute has issued its report card. It has been analyzing social health since 1970.

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