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United States: Resilient Individuals, Fragile Society?

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Countries around the world vary greatly in terms of their strengths and weaknesses on the World Risk Poll Resilience Index. Benedict Vigers, Consulting Associate at Gallup, dives into the data for the world’s third most populous country.

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countries score higher for individual resilience than societal resilience.

Resilience in the United States

The idea of resilience refers to people’s ability to handle shocks they face in their lives and to bounce back to ‘normal’ or near normal afterwards. People’s capacity for resilience in the face of shocks – such as a natural hazard or losing employment – depends on a range of factors, from personal characteristics through to broader societal structures.

The World Risk Poll Resilience Index quantifies people’s capacity for resilience and ability to deal with adversity, based on their personal circumstances, perceptions of agency, societal characteristics, and wider national factors and structures. The overall score ranges between 0 and 100, with higher values equating to higher resilience.

The United States is the world’s largest economy and third most populous country. It is also one of the world’s more resilient countries, scoring a total of 63/100 on the Resilience Index. This places the U.S. 27th out of 141 countries measured by the World Risk Poll – comfortably above the global average score of 57, but some way below the top scoring countries.

Overall U.S. Resilience Index and Sub-index Scores in 2023:

A graph showing the overall US Resilience Index and Sub-index scores in 2023

U.S. Bucks the Trend

The Resilience Index is an average score of four smaller sub-indexes: individual, household, community, and societal resilience. The vast majority of countries – 111 of them – have significantly higher scores for societal resilience than individual resilience. In other words, societies generally score higher for resilience than individuals within them.

Very few countries – just nine – show the opposite effect, where individual resilience is significantly higher than societal resilience. The US is among these nine countries and ranks as by far the most unevenly resilient among them.

No other country in the world has such resilient individuals living in such a fragile society.


Nine countries where individual resilience is higher than societal resilience:






United States      6847-21
New Zealand6358-5

*Gaps may differ due to rounding

Americans: Among The World’s Most Resilient Individuals?

The first level of the Resilience Index – the individual dimension – is a standout dimension for the U.S. With a score of 68, the U.S. ranks second highest in the world, far ahead of the global average of 44 and second only to Sweden. The score for individual resilience consists of the average of the score of two variables: perceptions of agency in the face of future disasters and levels of education (both factors are identified by the literature as important in impacting resilience).

Two thirds (68%) of Americans feel they could protect themselves or their families from a future disaster (i.e. agency), one of the highest rates in the world. Combined with their relatively high levels of education, Americans score higher than virtually all other countries for individual resilience scores. One level up from individual resilience is at the household level, and the U.S. also scores highly (74) for this dimension, ranking 5th globally.

Top 10 countries for individual resilience scores:

A graph showing the top 10 countries for individual resilience scores

An Increasingly Fragile Society

The U.S. score for societal resilience (the fourth level of the resilience index) stands in stark contrast to its strength on individual and household resilience. With a score of 47, it ranks 124th globally, in line with Mongolia, and almost 20 points behind the global average (65). This also represents a decline from 2021, when the U.S. scored 52 for societal resilience. Several factors lie behind this striking finding.

First is how Americans view their national institutions. Confidence in four U.S. institutions – the national government, military, judiciary, and honesty of elections – slipped in 2023 to a joint-record low since 2006. The U.S. now ranks behind all other G7 countries for people’s confidence in their institutions, having ranked top in 2006 when Gallup first started measuring them.

Second is the very high rates of self-reported experience of discrimination, at 55%. No other country in the world reports higher levels. The U.S. scores poorly on the experience of most forms of discrimination, ranking among the worst (either outright or tied with another country) in the world on discrimination by ethnicity/race/nationality (30% experienced), gender (30%), skin colour (27%) and disability (12%).

Third, 52% of Americans think their government doesn’t care about them ‘at all’, while just 7% think their government cares about them ‘a lot’. The combination of declining trust in institutions, high reported rates of many forms of discrimination, and widespread scepticism of the government’s care for its people, combine to leave the U.S. languishing near the bottom of the table globally for societal resilience.

In sum, the Resilience Index shows that while American people stand on solid ground for their perceived agency in the face of disaster as individuals, the society in which they live is built on far shakier foundations.

Find out more about resilience in countries around the world in the first of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll 2024 report, ‘Resilience in a Changing World’.