Friday, December 06, 2013

The U.S. vs The World: How Do We Stack Up?

As anyone who knows me will attest, I love surveys, quizzes, and polls. So, it won't come as a surprise to anyone that my curiosity was peaked when I read an article recently about best places to live, in this case, if you're a woman. The article looked at a variety of factors, such as income parity, healthcare, and so forth. The US, it seems, is 23rd on the list, down from the 17th spot in 2011. In fact, when it came to income parity, which is essentially equal income for similar work between sexes, the US was a woefully 67th, while at the same time, it ranked 6th in economic participation or the ratio between men to women in the workplace. So, naturally, I decided I'd take a look at some other ranking to see where the Good Ole U S of A stacks up to other countries on other issues.

The factor I wanted to look at first was the overall quality of life. After all, what's the sense in living there if it's a lousy place to be? It turns out the place with the best quality of life is Australia, followed by Sweden, Canada, and Norway. The US came in 6th place, just ahead of Denmark and Holland. Iceland and Luxembourg rounded off the top 15. Forbes Magazine said in a 2013 article published on January 4th that Ecuador was their top spot to retire, followed by Panama, Malaysia, Mexico and Costa Rica. Ok, so how about overall life expectancy? Being an ageing Babyboomer, that's kinda important.

The country with longest life expectancy turns out to be two countries actually, Japan and Switzerland, with an average age each of 83. However, if you're a guy, the best place to be is in the fourth ranked country, Italy. While the average life expectancy is 82, it has the highest life expectancy for men at 82. But hey ladies, Italy is pretty good to you too. It's ranked number one for gals with a life expectancy of 86! The United States is ranked 33rd in the world with an average age of 79. For men, the US comes in 36th place with an average life expectancy of 76 and 35th place for women with 81 years. But what about the quality of those years?
It turns out that Sweden is the best place to grow old in (a bit cold for my tastes). Norway, was second with Germany, Holland, and Canada rounding out the top five. The US was ranked 8th, just behind New Zealand and just ahead of Iceland. Going hand-in-hand with the best places to grow old, is which places have the best healthcare. It turns out that Hong Kong, despite its dense population has the best healthcare system, and is just ahead of Singapore and Japan.

Next on the list was Israel, Spain, Italy, and Austria, with Sweden finishing the top 10. As an aside, it also seems that Hong Kong has the highest life expectancy on the list with an average of 83.4 years. The US ranked a dismal 46th out of 48, just ahead of Serbia, Brazil and behind China, Algeria, and Iran. American efficiency in terms of healthcare dollars was a poor 20%, and yet we spend more per person on average ($8608.00 per year) than any other nation except number 9 on the list, Switzerland, which spends $9,121.00 (US dollars) per person. Along a similar line, the overall healthiest people are the Japanese, followed by the Austrians, French, Swedes, and Italians. So, what about education? Surely we have to do better in this area than anyone else.

Well, as it turns out, not so much. The best educated nation is the Finns, though close behind are the South Koreans and Hong Kong. Two other Asian giants came in fourth and fifth, Japan and Singapore respectively. Next on the list was the Brits, Dutch, and New Zealanders. The Swiss and Canadians rounded out the top 10. America came in 17th place, just behind the Belgians and just ahead of the Hungarians and Slovakians.

What's really interesting about this is that, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US spends more per student (just over $15,000) than any other nation. Switzerland comes the closes with an average cost of $14,922.00 per student while Mexico spends among the least at just under $3000.00 (as an comparison, the US spends, on average, around $32,000.00 per person in prison). At the same time, US students score far below students in other highly developed nations and do only slightly better than students in second and third tier countries. The US literacy rate 99%, which is pretty good, we're still ranked 26 in the world. The Ukraine, for instance, is ranked 12th while Norway is ranked 1st. The report indicated that the average cost per student was $9,313.00. What's also interesting is that the US lags behind the other Western nations in math, science, reading in 25th place while the East Asian nations score top marks across the board.What was also interesting was that US teachers were, on average, among the best paid in the world too. Obviously, something is very wrong here.

Speaking of expenditures, I wondered how we compared to other nations in terms of taxes. It turned out, that we do fairly well. The US ranks 23rd on taxable income, while other nations which as we've seen score well, did poorly here. Sweden has the highest tax rate at 56.6%, followed by Denmark at 55.4% and Holland at 52%. Austria and the UK were tied at 50%. Obviously, if you want better healthcare and quality of life (though not necessarily a better education), you'll have to pay dearly for it. It's all a matter of priorities. In terms of national debt, which certainly affects everything we've discussed thus far, the US is by far the most indebted nation in the world at approximately (in millions) $15,940,978. The next closest country are our British cousins at $9,307,090.

In terms of economic freedom, which by its very definition is subjective, the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom Report, list the most economically free country as Hong Kong with a score of 89.3. Singapore comes in 2nd with a score of 88. Australia and New Zealand are 3rd and 4th respectively. The United States comes in shocking 10th, just ahead of Ireland but behind Canada, Chile and Denmark. The UK is 14th and Germany ranks 19th.

In looking at crime, the US again came in first place with some 12,408,899 crimes reported in 2011. The next closest nation was Germany with some 2,112,843. Russia was fourth with just over 1 million reported crimes while Holland had approximately 372,300 reported crimes in 2011. The US ranked first among developed nations in violent crimes such as murder. Only four countries, Estonia, Russia Mexico and Brazil ranked higher. On the opposite side of the social spectrum, I was also interested to know who were the most and least religious people in the world, regardless of their religion.

As you might guess, religiosity seems to be closely related to wealth. It is also, sometimes, tied to political dogma. The poorer a country is, the more religious it is while the richer a country is, the less likely it will be overly religious. As it turns out, Ghana, as extremely poor nation, was top with 96% of the population claiming to be religious. Close behind them was Nigeria at 93% and Armenia at 92%. While globally, religion has declined 9% since 2005, Macedonia's religiosity was still at 90% with Romania at 89% and Iraq and Kenya tied at 88%.

On the other side of this issue, Ireland, once a devoutly Catholic nation now claims a whopping 10% atheist population, alongside Austria and Iceland. Holland was 15% atheist while Germany and South Korea were 15%. Surprisingly, the once very Catholic are now 29% atheist which the Czechs are 30%. What perhaps surprised me was the Japanese are 31% atheist, and unsurprisingly, the Chinese are 47% atheist. As for the US, 65% of us said we were religious. This ranked us 60th in the world. While 65% seems to be pretty good considering, it's still at drop of 13% since 2005.

So, the next time you want to know how America stacks up against other countries, you'll know. As can be seen, however, for a nation with the amazing diversity of people and resources, we can and need to do better; much better. There's no excuse for us to spend what we do on education, yet do so poorly, nor is the there an reason we should not do better in terms of reducing crime or improving the quality of life in America.

The Most Efficient Health Care Systems in the World

The Best Countries to Grow Old In

2013 Index Economic Freedom Report

Top Ten Countries with the Most Debt

Top Ten Countries with the Most Reported Crimes

The Top Ten Countries with the Highest Income Tax Rates

A revealing map of how students around the world test on math science and reading

U.S. education spending tops global list, study shows

Most Religious Countries and Most Atheist Countries

Global Index of Religion and Atheism

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