Mary Anna Thomas

21 Ways U.S. Citizens Are Not as Free as They May Think

Compared to many other countries, The United States enjoys many freedoms. From civil liberties to religious beliefs, several policies support the claim that it is the “Land of the Free.” However, Americans lack certain laws and rules in some of the freedoms people in other countries enjoy. We take a look at 21 areas where Americans are losing out compared to other citizens around the world.

Healthcare Struggles

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The U.S. healthcare system relies heavily on private health insurance, often linked to workplace schemes. For those who don’t have health insurance with their employer or who work part-time, it can be difficult to get the medical care they need. For people working in the gig economy or who are unemployed, the choice is to get sicker or incur large amounts of debt. This is a stark contrast to some other countries, like the U.K., which has a national health service (NHS) that all citizens can access. 

Lack of Paid Parental Leave

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Statutory parental leave is common in many countries, particularly those in Europe. In comparison, the U.S. does not mandate paid parental leave, meaning many parents struggle to take time off to care for their children. 

Strict Alcohol Laws

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In many countries, you can consume alcohol when you are 18, with some European countries allowing young people to drink when they are 16. But, in America, the legal age to buy and drink alcohol is 21, much to the frustration of young people who can’t understand how they can get married and have children but cannot enjoy a beer. 

Gun Crime Deaths

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In 2023, more than 43,000 people died as a result of gun violence in the U.S. While many Americans celebrate the right to bear arms, others feel they are not free to walk around without fear of being injured by a firearm. Other countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, also experience issues with gun violence, but in countries that have stricter gun laws, there are fewer deaths. 

Unfair Vacation Time

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Like paid leave, the U.S. doesn’t automatically enforce paid vacation time. The amount of vacation time Americans get is down to their employers, with the average offering ten days’ leave. This number is much lower than some countries, which offer anything from 14 days in Mexico to an impressive 53 days in Iran.

 Lack of Affordable Education 

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American students have a bad deal when it comes to education, with high college and accommodation fees. Some other countries offer subsidized tuition fees, meaning more young people have equal access to education. 

Lack of Free Childcare

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In addition to subsidized tuition fees, other countries offer childcare at cheaper rates, sometimes free. This means that parents can get back into the workplace more quickly without trying to balance the cost of childcare. This is a stark comparison to the U.S., where the average cost of daycare in the U.S. is $4,810 per year.

No Minimum Income

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While the minimum hourly pay in the U.S. is $7.25, there is no minimum income mandate. In comparison, in countries such as Norway, there’s a  Universal Basic Income (U.B.I.) that ensures citizens can enjoy a wage that allows them to live comfortably.  

Poor Workers Rights

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Compared to the U.S., some countries make it harder for employers to fire workers without cause. This can provide greater security and stability for employees. In addition, many countries have strict rules on how many hours people can work without a break, which is not the case in America. 

Unemployment Benefits

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There are no universal unemployment benefits in the U.S., each outlining its policies on workers’ rights. In general, the unemployment rate offered to Americans is not as high as that of citizens in other nations, with some supporting people until they get another job and helping them find work. 

Lack of Affordable Housing

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Housing costs in the United States have become a major hurdle for many people. Buying a home or finding an affordable rental can feel out of reach. This situation is quite different in some other countries. For instance, Denmark sets aside 20% of its housing for families needing affordable options.

No Paid Sick Leave

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Like many other work-related policies in the U.S., it is worse than most other developed countries, which have statutory sick pay. Employers often work when they are ill as they cannot afford to stay off work. There’s minimal sick pay unless employers have their robust policies. 

Expensive Elder Care

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Unlike some countries, the U.S. government’s health insurance programs (Medicare and Medicaid) have limited coverage for long-term care needs. This means seniors often rely on private insurance, out-of-pocket payments, or family support to cover costs.

Reproductive Restrictions

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With the overturning of  Roe v. Wade in 2022, women’s health faces many difficulties. Abortion and reproductive rights are now in the hands of individual states, with some states making it difficult for women to have autonomy. Compared to tiger counties that have specific rights on abortion for all citizens, some say the U.S. is too controlling. 

Lack of Public Transportation

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The U.S. depends on cars, with infrastructure reliant on people driving. There is also a lack of public transportation, meaning those who cannot drive are restricted in their movement. Other countries have better public transportation systems, so they aren’t reliant on expensive cars that continue to air pollution. 

Lower Speed Limits

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The current highest speed limit in the U.S. is 85 mph (in Texas), but averaging 70 mph. In contrast, countries like Dubai (100 mph) and Germany (officially, no limit, but 81 mph is recommended) have the freedom to drive much faster. 

Voting Restrictions

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According to Reuters, 51% of eligible voters in the U.S. live in a state where new voting restrictions are in place. I.D. requirements and limits on mail-in voting have changed, making it difficult for many people, particularly in poorer areas, to vote. While some other countries have voter I.D. policies, they are not as restrictive as in the U.S. 

High Incarceration Rates

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Compared to many other countries, the U.S. has high incarceration rates, with approximately 10% of Americans behind bars. This could be due to the higher gun crime rates, but critics also point out that the U.S. is behind on policies such as restorative justice. 

No Free Baby Supplies

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In countries like Finland and Norway, new parents enjoy free baby goods like diapers, vests, and bottles. These “baby boxes” are a great help to parents as they save them money and time. Such incentives are unavailable in the U.S., other than through churches and charities. 

Racial Inequality

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Hispanic and Black communities continue to face significant challenges in the job market compared to white counterparts in the U.S. Hispanics are roughly half as likely to be employed as whites, and Black unemployment remains about twice as high. These are just some of the inequalities that people of color face in the U.S., ultimately placing restrictions on their freedom. 

Poor Work-Life Balance

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With fewer work laws and unreliable annual income, workers in the U.S. often work very long hours to make ends meet. This can mean getting home late when the rest of the family is in bed and being the first out of the door. Many European countries work harder to create a better balance for their citizens. 

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