In the most recent report from The Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, the United States trails behind several nations in its inclusiveness of marginalized groups. While nations such as New Zealand and those in Northern Europe consistently secure top spots, the U.S., regrettably, finds itself placed at 77th — a slight improvement from 72nd in the preceding years, 2022 and 2021.
Diving deeper into the categories, the U.S. receives commendable recognition for LGBTQ acceptance, placing 16th, and for religion, standing at 27th. However, challenges are evident when we analyze the nation’s standing in terms of race (118th), disability (70th), and gender (108th), according to NBC News.
One significant concern raised by Stephen Menendian, the assistant director and director of research at OBI, is the U.S.’s incarceration rate. Speaking to NBC News, Menendian conveyed, “Since the United States has a very high rate of incarceration — but specifically a very disproportionate rate of incarcerating nonwhite people — that pulls down the ranking tremendously.”
The scarcity of women in influential political positions also contributes to the decline. “Only 25 out of 100 U.S. senators today are women,” Menendian informed NBC News.
The study went beyond mere gender representation. Factors like violent assaults on specific groups, income disparities, and a nation’s receptivity to immigrants played a role. Menendian stated to NBC News, “The United States has a lot of economic inequality between social groups that also pulls down the ranking compared to the more egalitarian Scandinavian countries.” For the first time, the index also scrutinized countries’ approach to climate change, notably the emission rates of greenhouse gases.
Reflecting on the trend since the index was introduced in 2016, Menendian commented on the U.S.’s declining performance in areas of disability, race, and gender. He noted to NBC News that while this could be attributed to the rise in other nations’ rankings, it may also reflect a potential downturn for the U.S.
On a state-by-state basis, Hawaii, Maryland, and Vermont emerged as leaders in inclusiveness, while Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama lagged behind. Florida, which recently attracted attention for its controversial stance on LGBTQ rights, surprisingly ranks 16th in national inclusiveness, ahead of New York and Oregon.
Globally, Iran, Yemen, and the Comoros Islands found themselves at the tail end of the inclusiveness rankings.
Menendian expressed hope that these rankings would drive change. He told NBC News, “Our hope is that people who reside in these places or people who are advocates for inclusion and equity can see the changes and then point to it, and use it as a reference to advocate for more inclusion in their communities.”