On the other hand: poverty is invariably measured by national standards, so it is difficult to compare poverty rates across countries. Usually, a person or family is said to be “poor” if their annual income is, say, less than 60% of the median annual income of the country. Because the United States’ middle class is wealthy and the country enjoys the world’s highest median household income, the standard by which someone is said to be poor is also the highest. Thus, even though America’s poverty rate is more than twice that of Sweden, 40% of Swedish households earned less than $25,000 (international dollars) in 2010, compared to 26% of American households in the same income bracket that year. Overall, the United States still enjoys a very high standard of living by most measures. The ., for example, ranks the . as having the third-highest Human Development Index; tied with the Netherlands; below Norway and Australia; and slightly above New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland.
In 1954, the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, provoked controversy, often in the form of violent protests and mob riots. The decades following brought significant resistance to the ruling, from physical attacks on black students to refusal to comply with desegregation policies, but through persistent effort, including federal prohibition against discrimination, state court enforcement, cross-neighborhood busing and magnet schools, racial integration in schools became more accepted and widespread. At the 50-year anniversary of the court’s decision, however, examination of individual public schools and interviews with attending students showed that many districts were overwhelmingly segregated. For example, out of the 12 schools in Fulton County, Atlanta, 5 are more than 80% black and 6 are more than 60% white. A 1999 study done by the Harvard Civil Rights project reported that students in . public schools were more segregated than they were in the 1970s, and suggests that the legal and political climate is relatively hostile to considering a need for change. As the educational system in the . increasingly reflects national social and class issues, understanding the reasons for these demographic shifts and considering the steps needed to remedy this situation will again prove controversial.