By Jeff Mullin, columnist
ENID, Okla. —
Where were you born?
It’s a harmless enough question, not in the least bit controversial, not in any way offensive and not to be construed as some lame pickup line.
Wags among us will answer, “in a hospital,” but many people were born at home and some even in exotic locations like automobiles, airplanes and even public restrooms.
So, where were you born? I was born in a hospital in Philadelphia, Pa., which makes me one of the vast majority of Americans who were birthed right here in the good old U.S.
I am immensely proud of that fact, and I wouldn’t want to have been born anywhere else.
I think this is the greatest nation in the world in which to be born.
And I would be wrong, according to a new report.
The Economist newspaper has issued a report listing the world’s best places in which to be born.
Switzerland is No. 1, followed by Australia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
The United States, in fact, did not make the top 10, or the top 15, for that matter.
We are tied with Germany, in fact, at No. 16. America is ranked just ahead of the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Israel, and right behind Austria, Taiwan and Belgium.
However, we are doing better than Ukraine, Kenya and Nigeria, which brought up the rear of the survey.
Each country was rated based on 11 statistical indicators including gender equality, life expectancy at birth, quality of family life, divorce rates, climate change ranked by monthly temperatures and rainfall, among others.
The U.S. was rated 7.38 out of a possible 10, while Switzerland received an 8.22.
Granted, surveys are a dime a dozen, and for every survey showing one trend, there are five indicating another.
Take those “best places to live,” surveys, for instance.
Time magazine says Vienna, Austria, is the No. 1 city in the world, followed by Zurich, Switzerland, and Auckland, New Zealand. The top U.S. city in the ranking, Honolulu, doesn’t come in until No. 28. But this birthplace survey makes me mad.
If the United States is such a lousy country in which to be born, how come so many people who weren’t born here want to come here and live?
During the past decade, an average of 700,000 people per year have become naturalized citizens of the U.S. That translates to 0.2 percent of our population.
Most come from Mexico, with India, the Phillipines and China not far behind. Since 1976, the region producing most of our legal immigrants has been Asia.
The majority of naturalized citizens live in California, Florida and New York.
In all, 13 percent of our total population is foreign-born, but many are legal permanent residents, or “green card” holders, while others are here illegally.
Every year, a million people get their green cards, while there are an estimated 11.5 million people who have come to this country illegally, 60 percent from Mexico.
We don’t make it easy on immigrants to become citizens. At present, about eight million green card holders are eligible to become naturalized citizens, having lived in the U.S. for at least five years.
But a 2003 survey by the National Institutes of Health found one-sixth of all legal immigrants said they became discouraged during the long process required to become citizens.
Yet every year, 700,000 more of them make it.
Taking the oath to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the U.S. and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
I can’t help but think back to a cruise my bride and I took to the Mediterranean several years ago. Among our dining companions were two couples and one single gentlemen who, by their looks and their accents, had obviously been born in India.
When it came time for introductions, they were asked “Where are you from?” Their answer: “We are from America,” the words said with an obvious note of pride.
The men had been classmates at an engineering school in their native India, but all had emigrated to this country to further their education, and to make a better life for their families.
Where is the best place in the world to be born? No offense to Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the rest, but to my way of thinking, the answer to that question is summed up in three little letters: U.S.A.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.