Sunday, March 27, 2005

How Does the USA Stack Up Worldwide?

In no particular order, here are some interesting data on how the US stacks up vs. other countries on basic measures of economics, education, health care, poverty and one measure each of press freedom and popular entertainment. Sources are given to enable you to judge veracity and check data for yourself. I identified the first 10 in March, 2005, then added two Updates, in June 2005, as #11, 12.

1) Nordic Countries Lead the Way in the World Economic Forum's 2004 Competitiveness Rankings -- 13 October 2004 - Geneva Switzerland (

"Finland remains the most competitive economy in the world and tops the rankings for the second consecutive year in The Global Competitiveness Report 2004-2005, released today by the World Economic Forum. The United States is in second position, followed by Sweden, Taiwan, Denmark and Norway, consecutively." Half of the top 10 are Nordic countries: Finland (1), Sweden (3), Denmark (5), Norway (6) and Iceland (10). The rankings are drawn from the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, which this year polled over 8,700 business leaders in 104 economies worldwide."

2) In 2004, the USA ranked #1 by far in GNP with $10.98 trillion and China was #2 at $6.449 trillion, followed by Japan ($3.567) and India ($3.022). But the USA was #2 that year in GDP Per Capita, with $37,800, far behind Luxembourg's $55,100. Following closely behind the USA in GNP/capita were Norway: $37,700, Bermuda: $36,000, Cayman Islands: $35,000, San Marino: $34,600, Switzerland: $32,800, Denmark: $31,200, Iceland: $30,900 and, rounding out the top ten, was Austria at $30,000." Source: 2004 CIA World Factbook

3) "China is today the world's sixth most productive economy (the USA and Japan being first and second) and our third largest trading partner after Canada and Mexico. According to CIA statisticians in their Factbook 2003, China is actually already the second-largest economy on Earth measured on a purchasing power parity basis - that is, in terms of what China actually produces rather than prices and exchange rates. The CIA calculates the United States' gross domestic product (GDP) - the total value of all goods and services produced within a country - for 2003 as $10.4 trillion and China's $5.7 trillion. This gives China's 1.3 billion people a per capita GDP of $5,000."

"The case National Intelligence Council forecasts that China's GDP will equal Britain's in 2005, Germany's in 2009, Japanese in 2017, and the U.S.'s in 2042. But Shahid Javed Burki, former vice president of the World Bank's China Department and a former finance minister of Pakistan, predicts that by 2025 China will probably have a GDP of $25 trillion in terms of purchasing power parity and will have become the world's largest economy followed by the United States at $20 trillion and India at about $13 trillion - and Burki's analysis is based on a conservative prediction of a 6% Chinese growth rate sustained over the next two decades."
Source: Chalmers Johnson, TomDispatch, 3/15/2005

4) As reported by CNN (4/9/2003), the US ranks somewhere from 4th to 12th in reading skills of 4th graders, according to a study by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study of 2001. Rankings of the 35 countries surveyed showed: 1. Sweden, 2. Netherlands, 3. England, 4 through 12. (though they're listed in order, these nine are statistically tied, according to the CNN article): Bulgaria, Latvia, Canada, Lithuania, Hungary, USA, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic). These are followed by: 13. New Zealand, 14. Scotland, 15. Singapore, 16. Russian Federation.

5) "The United States spends a higher percentage of its Gross Domestic Income (GDP) on health care than any other nation, and the result, as translated into indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality, are mediocre compared to other rich countries. Yet costs here are continuing to rise rapidly.

"...A recent study found that health costs often spell economic disaster for American families. Half of all bankruptcies in this country result from medical bills. ...many of the people bankrupted by monster medical charges had health insurance coverage. (BOLD added for emphasis)

"The study, published in this month's Health Affairs, estimates two million people annually, including 700,000 dependent children, are affected by medical bankruptcies. ...said Dr. David Himmelstein of the Harvard Medical School, the lead researcher: ...those bankrupted by the high cost of medical care were 'average Americans who happened to get sick.' Indeed, 75.7 percent of them were insured at the onset of illness. The reality of American health care according to the study is that 'even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick.'
Source: "In High Gear, The GOP Class War", by Max J. Castro, Progreso Weekly, 17-23 February 2005 Edition

6) "Healthy Life Expectancy. Health attainment, level and distribution in all Member States. Estimates for 1997 and 1998 by the World Health Organization. Disability adjusted life expectancy at birth:
1 - Japan (74.5)
2 - Australia
3 - France
4 - Sweden
5 - Spain
6 - Italy
7 - Greece
8 - Switzerland
9 - Monaco
10 - Andorra
11 - San Marino
12 - Canada
13 - Netherlands
14 - United Kingdom
15 - Norway
24 - United States (70.0)

See above list in full at:

"US was ranked #72 on "Level of Health" (snuggled between Argentina-71 and Bhutan-73) and #37 (between Costa Rica-36 and Slovenia-38) on "Overall Health System Performance", according to the World Health Organization. See:

7) "The United States is the wealthiest, mightiest country in all of human history, and yet it has a higher proportion of poor or, worse, hungry citizens than almost every other industrialized nation. ...The Luxembourg Income Study, which has been tracking household incomes of twenty-five countries for more than twenty years, recently compared nations' relative poverty rates. 'Relative' poverty is defined as a household making less than 50 percent of the national median income. In Finland, Norway, and Sweden, poverty rates range between 5.4 percent and 6.5 percent. Of our two neighbors, Canada and Mexico, the United States' poverty rate is much closer to Mexico, 22.1 percent. The U.S. poverty rate is 17 percent, according to the Luxembourg study, only 1.8 percent lower than Russia's."
Source: What We've Lost, Graydon Carter, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2004, page 118.

8) "The US child poverty rate is the highest in the developed world, 50 percent higher than the next country"
Source: page 199 of Gary Hart's Restoration of the Republic (2002). He cited this original source: A. Huffington, Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2000.

9) "And, in 2002, the US ranked 17th in Press Freedom, with index values of 4 and 75, according to Reporters Without Borders. Their index (low values are better) was drawn up by asking journalists, researchers and legal experts to answer 50 questions about the whole range of press freedom violations (such as murders or arrests of journalists, censorship, pressure, state monopolies in various fields, punishment of press law offences and regulation of the media). The final list includes 139 countries."
See list at:

10) Move over Hollywood, India is now #1 in production of movies.
Source: TV Show (Letterman, Feb. 2005) and magazines featuring the actress dubbed "Most Beautiful Woman in the World".

NEW ITEM: 06/05/2005
11) In a massive worldwide poll done by Skytrax, a London-based consultancy, people from 94 countries rated the world's airlines on several criteria. The survey spanned a year's time and tallied more than 12 million responses. See overall results below. In one category: Best Low Cost airline, Jet Blue, of the US, rated best worldwide. When confined by region, i.e., limited to North American airlines, the results show that US airlines ranked #2: Jet Blue and #3: Continental, after #1: Air Canada.
1. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong
2. Qantas Airways, Australia
3. Emirates, Dubai
4. Singapore Airlines, Singapore
5. British Airways, United Kingdom
6. Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia
7. Thai Airways, Thailand
8. Qatar Airways, Qatar
9. Asiana Airlines, South Korea
10. ANA All Nippon Airways, Japan

Source: "Annual survey of millions of passengers ranks the planet's best airlines.", June 4, 2005: 2:21 PM EDT, By Gordon T. Anderson, CNN/Money staff writer
CNN Money (

NEW ITEM: 06/08/2005
12) Here's one where we're #1: Prevalence of mental illness in the population. "One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a 'serious' disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day, according to the largest and most detailed survey of the nation's mental health, published yesterday.

Although parallel studies in 27 other countries are not yet complete, the new numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank No. 1 globally for mental illness, researchers said.

'We lead the world in a lot of good things, but we're also leaders in this one particular domain that we'd rather not be,' said Ronald Kessler, the Harvard professor of health care policy who led the effort, called the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.

The exhaustive government-sponsored effort, based on in-depth interviews with more than 9,000 randomly selected Americans, finds that the prevalence of U.S. mental illness has remained roughly flat in the past decade - a possible glimmer of hope given that previous decades had suggested the rates were gradually rising."

Source: Study: "US Leads in Mental Illness, Lags in Treatment", by Rick Weiss, The Washington Post, Tuesday 07 June 2005. See original article at:


Anonymous said...

We have stacked up many issues with health care. I hope we can work to improve our health care system.

E-RM: Your Research Resource said...

Admittedly far from fully developed, here's the core of an idea that I may develop in a later blog entry: Let's move to having only one medical insurance company in the USA for everyone. What do you think of that idea and what would you do with it?

billiam said...

I would be all for your idea of one medical insurance. However, there are many who would resist, especially the insurance companies themselves who would loose huge profits.
I am moving to Norway this April, and one of the enticing things is their health care policy.

E-RM: Your Research Resource said...

Good luck to you in Norway, and please keep in touch with us here. I'd love to hear from you regarding your observations and experiences with Norway's health care, once you're there a while. Bon Voyage!

Anonymous said...

There is more to it than just health insurance companies. The government needs to step up and enforce regulations on healthcare industry in a whole including drug companies.

E-RM: Your Research Resource said...

The concept is that this ONE health insurance company would have EVERY American man, woman and child as a customer for life. Simple, isn't it?
As a useful mental exercise, I urge you to consider, and please comment here, on the many amazing implications!

Anonymous said...

Its no suprise to me, most of the wealth of the US is in the hands of a very low percentage of familys.large corporatons, we have the best goverment money can buy.Washington,DC needs a real wakeup call. I dont need a study to tell me how bad things are here, I live in this greedy country.we should be leading the world,in all areas in quality of life issues.But until americans
get there fat asses up and expect a lot more from this so called republic, our standard of living will keep falling. signed a angry citizen of a military state!

Unknown said...

What are the various types of health insurance programmes that are available to me, and which is best suited to suit the needs of my family and myself? How do I choose the ideal health care plan? What are the major points that one needs to bear in mind while buying Health Care Insurance Policy?

E-RM: Your Research Resource said...

Dalles: I'm flattered that you would ask but, sorry, I will say this - perhaps having an independent agent assist you is best. Beyond that, choosing a policy - and an insurance company - is something so miserable that, I'm sorry, I can't touch it. My own misery doing so has been such an atrocious and virtually hopeless exercise...I can only wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

instead of comparing a country to another competitively, maybe we should work cooperatively to make a global moral entity.

bathmate said...

I liked it.

Unknown said...

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