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The Condition of America

Citizens rightly judge a President on the proposals he makes and the laws he signs. Yet there is another standard they judge by as well: the economic and social condition of the country. Are things in America getting better, or worse? Is progress being made, or lost? Are social indicators improving, or declining? With that in mind, it may be useful to provide a brief summary of the condition of America, based on recent empirical data.

Economic Indicators

  • Since last summer, the American economy has grown at the fastest rate of any major industrialized nation.
  • America's economy has been growing at rates as fast as any in nearly 20 years.
  • Nearly 1.5 million jobs have been created since August 2003 and 1.3 million new jobs have been created this year alone. The unemployment rate today is below the average unemployment rate of the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s. 
  • From 2000 to 2003, productivity grew at the fastest three-year rate in more than a half-century, raising the standard of living for all Americans.
  • The Conference Board's index of leading indicators has risen at an average annual rate of 4.2 percent since March 2003 – the fastest 15-month period of increase in 20 years – suggesting vibrant economic growth in the near term.  
  • The stock market has regained more than $4 trillion in equity since its low in mid-2002. In 2003 the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 25 percent and the NASDAQ rose 50 percent. 
  • Manufacturing activity expanded in July 2004 for the 14th consecutive month. 
  • Real after-tax incomes are up 11 percent since December 2000.
  • Interest rates reached their lowest levels in decades during the Bush Administration.
  • Homeownership is at its highest level ever and mortgage rates reached their lowest level in decades during the Bush Administration. And for the first time, the majority of minority Americans own their own homes.
  • During the Bush Presidency, the United States has experienced one of the lowest core inflation rates (averaging two percent per year) in the past 40 years.

Crime and Drug Use   

  • Violent crime rates decreased 21 percent between 1999-2000 and 2001-2002. The violent crime rate is now down to its lowest point in the last three decades.
  • Property crime dropped 13 percent between 1999-2000 and 2001-2002.
  • There were about 130,000 fewer victims of gun crime in 2001-2002 than there were in 1999-2000, the first two-year period with less than a million gun-crime victims since 1993.
  • Smoking, drinking, and illegal drug use among teenagers all fell between 2001 and 2003.
  • Between 2001 and 2003, teen drug use fell by more than 10 percent – the first decline of such magnitude in more than a decade.
  • Recent use of ecstasy, which sharply increased between 1998 and 2001, fell by half among high school students – and past use of LSD fell by almost two-thirds.       


  • The largest welfare caseload decline in history occurred between 1996 and 2003, with the caseload falling 60 percent.  


  • According to a March 2004 study by the Council of Great City Schools, the achievement gap in both math and reading between African Americans and whites, and Hispanics and whites, is narrowing.
  • The high school dropout rate and the number of teens neither enrolled in school nor working was lower in 2001 than in 1996.
  • More African Americans today are finishing high school, going to college, and earning higher salaries than ever. Since 1980 the percentage of African Americans earning high school diplomas has increased by more than 27 percent. And according to the Census Bureau, less than eight percent of African Americans had completed four years of college in 1980 – compared to 17 percent who had a bachelor's degree in 2002.  

Family Life

  • The divorce rate has fallen steadily for more than a decade.
  • The proportion of children in married-parent families rose slightly since 1999 – the first increase in more than two decades.
  • The percentage of high school students who reported ever having had sex was significantly lower in 2003 than in 1991.  


  • Alcohol-related traffic fatalities are near their lowest level since the government began keeping such statistics.
  • The rate of teen deaths by accident, homicide, and suicide fell 17 percent between 1996 and 2001.  
  • In 2002 the number of teens who smoked cigarettes daily dropped to the lowest point since data were first collected.

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