Last week, the HumanProgress team gave a talk on Capitol Hill entitled "Don't worry, be happy." We focused on encouraging global trends ranging from growing wealth and increasing life expectancy, to falling crime and the shrinking gender pay gap in rich countries. Afterwards, the audience asked question after question about a topic that we didn't cover—race relations in the United States. Fortunately, HumanProgress.org does include data on race and racism. So, here are five charts on the progress that has been made in the realm of U.S. race relations.
Even after the Civil War ended the institution of slavery, the lynching of African Americans continued. That plummeted rapidly over the following decades and disappeared completely mid-way through the last century.
In 1942, some 68 percent of white Americans surveyed thought that blacks and whites should go to separate schools. By 1995, only 4 percent held that view. In 1958, 45 percent of white Americans would "maybe" or "definitely" move if a black family moved in next door. By 1997, that fell to 2 percent.
In the 1990s, nonlethal hate crimes against blacks—including simple assault, aggravated assault, and, most often, intimidation—still occurred, but were declining. By 2008, all were less common, with intimidation seeing the most dramatic decline.
Hate-crime murders of African Americans, similarly, decreased from 5 to 1 per year between 1996 and 2008.
According to the 2014 World Values Survey's most recent data on racist attitudes, the most racist country in the world was Azerbaijan, where 58 percent of the population was against racially different neighbors. In second place was Libya, where 55 percent of the population felt that way. The Palestinian Authority followed with 44 percent, India with 41 percent and Thailand with 40 percent.
The United States ranked 47th out of 60 countries surveyed that year, with only 6 percent of the population opposed to racially different neighbors. By that measure, the United States was less racist than the Netherlands, Germany, Estonia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru, to name just a few.
While U.S. race relations are far from perfect, they have improved greatly, and from a global perspective, they could be a lot worse.