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Spoiler alert: Northern Europe does well
November 23, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index ranks the wealth and well-being of the world's countries according to eight sub-indexes. Interestingly, you may individually re-weight those eight sub-indexes, in order to create country rankings closer to your own values and priorities. Foreign Policy has more on the Prosperity Index's unique approach to the ultimately very silly art of numerically ranking nation-states.
posted by Sticherbeast (25 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought this was useful information from the PDF:

PROSPERITY INDEX ‘ANOMALIES’
Some Prosperity Index rankings may appear to the reader as puzzling. In some cases these could be the result of issues that lie within the data. Depending on the case, these rankings may have been caused by one of the following:

1. DATA LAG
The Prosperity Index uses the most recent available datapoints, but because it relies on large global data sets the data are not always up to date. The 2012 Index may not, therefore, reflect all recent events.

2. AUTOCRATIC COUNTRIES
Subjective data on perceptions can produce counterintuitive results for autocratic regimes as citizens may be afraid of providing an honest opinion, particularly concerning the government.

3. ACTUAL CHANGES vs. PERCEIVED CHANGES
Taking steps to tackle a problem can negatively affect citizens’ perceptions of it—even if actual conditions are improving. Interventions can give an issue higher visibility, leading to heightened public concern.

4. DEVELOPED vs. DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Some variables have a larger effect in developing countries than in developed countries (this is true, for example, of healthcare expenditure). For objectivity, we have opted to apply the same weights to all variables across all countries.

5. TREATMENT OF OCCUPIED/DISPUTED TERRITORIES
The status of disputed territories, such as the Palestinian Territories or Kashmir, is treated non-uniformly by several of our data sources. For example, when measuring socio-economic and political pressures in Israel, India, and Pakistan, Freedom House (from whom we receive data on civil liberties) excludes these territories. However, the Failed State Index (from whom we receive data on human flight) includes them.

6. INPUTS vs. OUTPUTS
In some instances the Prosperity Index utilises variables that measure inputs rather than outputs as they are the best available proxy for the phenomena under consideration. Anomalies arise when the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into outputs varies across countries.

7. UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF THE POPULATION
For some countries, such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, subjective data collected by Gallup might not be representative of the entire population. Countries facing this problem are listed in our separate methodology document available online.
posted by mykescipark at 12:12 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh my god, the ocean swallowed up China!
posted by Theta States at 12:31 PM on November 23, 2012


Given that Norway ranks so high it would seem the numbers are biased towards the natural wealth of the land more than the qualities of the fishermen who live on it.
posted by three blind mice at 12:47 PM on November 23, 2012


I wish you could de-weight individual questions. I note in the Social Capital sub-index that higher marriage rate and more frequent visits to houses of worship count towards your score. It'd be interesting to see what the list would look like without those factors.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The US ranks #2 in "health" and Sweden ranks #14.
...hmm.
posted by Auden at 1:07 PM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, the United States is listed as #2 in the health category. I can't decide whether such lofty heights were achieved by the wonderful life expectancy or the low low infant mortality. It's a pity that they didn't take into account how much money is spent on healthcare per head, as that might have just nudged them up into #1.
posted by Jehan at 1:07 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just made a spider plot of the health subcategories. The only headings where the US edges out Sweden are "Did you feel rested yesterday?", "Incidence of Tuberculosis" and "Health Expenditure per person."

If it costs more it must be better!
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Things that are apparently less important than overall health expenditures.

Sweden/United States (world ranking)
Infant Mortality 4.5/41
Health Adjusted Life Expectancy 5/31.5
Deaths from Respiratory Disease 10.5/68.5
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 1:25 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, I'm sorry, but it really annoys me. On almost every measure the UK outscores the US in health (tuberculosis seems to be the only actual problem, and even that's small), yet the US comes in at #2 and the UK #18. Why? Because they spend 2.18 times what we do. So, basically, if your healthcare system is so efficient that you can achieve equal or better scores on less than half the money, it counts against you. But if you can piss healthcare dollars up the wall, well done!
posted by Jehan at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


But if you can piss healthcare dollars up the wall, well done!

If I could move a dollar up a wall just through the sheer force of my piss-blast, I'd be pretty proud of myself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:03 PM on November 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


(sorry, that was a skeptical/dubious hmm earlier.)
posted by Auden at 2:26 PM on November 23, 2012


I'm obviously failing to find some key part of the data here: I can't find a single thing that says that health expenditure is factored into the health rankings. What link am I failing to click?
posted by yoink at 4:03 PM on November 23, 2012


International statistics are often problematic because measurement methods and data quality are different and proper conclusions are often subtle. For instance, high US infant mortality is driven by the US having the most broad definition of a living (as opposed to stillborn) baby. This selection makes all health statistics murky: who and how samples are chosen a priori and for what care. Averages are still misleading, as in the US the middle class are doing very well compared to peers in other countries, and the poor (especially minorities) doing quite badly. Also it's dubious how useful life expectancy and infant mortality is for sorting fully developed countries by healthcare -- they are merely convenient and available.
posted by helot at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a pity that they didn't take into account how much money is spent on healthcare per head

Shouldn't we evaluate strictly on the basis of outcomes? I could spend scads of money on a cartload of homeopathic remedies but that wouldn't make me any healthier than you. Likewise, the fact that the US has an extremely inefficient health insurance model isn't a reason to praise the system.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:42 PM on November 23, 2012


The US scores relatively low in Personal Freedom - compared to Canada and even Australia where you pretty much can't fart without a permit.
posted by the noob at 7:44 PM on November 23, 2012


compared to Canada and even Australia where you pretty much can't fart without a permit.

You don't need a permit to fart thank you very much. They may tax you for releasing a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere in Australia but you don't need a permit.
posted by Talez at 7:47 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


compared to Canada and even Australia where you pretty much can't fart without a permit

Care to expand on that?
posted by ~ at 8:58 PM on November 23, 2012


> The US scores relatively low in Personal Freedom - compared to Canada and even Australia

Of course. Personal freedom is such a given we've not had to amend the constitution.
posted by de at 10:53 PM on November 23, 2012


Perhaps the rate of imprisonment impacts the Personal Freedom score.
posted by onya at 11:09 PM on November 23, 2012


The US scores relatively low in Personal Freedom - compared to Canada and even Australia where you pretty much can't fart without a permit.

Last time I checked, in many places in the United States, Jaywalking is illegal and you can be taken to court for it. This means you literally can't cross the road except at places where you are told you can.
posted by Francis at 5:18 AM on November 24, 2012


The personal freedom thing might be about gay marriage and drugs, as well as political protest. But yeah, the US is no "freer" than Canada, and (if you're gay) decidedly less free.
posted by jb at 5:48 AM on November 24, 2012


Go to the Methodology page from the main site. The Personal Freedom sub-index appears to be composed mostly of self-reported attitudes, e.g. are you satisfied with your freedoms, do you feel that your country is a good place for immigrants, and so on. There's also an entry just for "civil liberties," which I assume is actual data, but who knows.

Ranking personal freedom gets very tricky when you start running up against different ideas of what we would think of as being free. Is the US more free than countries that have criminalized hate speech? Well, it depends on what you think about the topic. Are more laissez-faire polices more free than less laissez-faire policies? Again, it depends on what you think about the topic. Are some aspects of the English common law more "free" than aspects of Roman civil law, such as the presumption of innocence and a right to a trial by a jury of your peers? As always, it depends what you think.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:59 AM on November 24, 2012


Are some aspects of the English common law more "free" than aspects of Roman civil law, such as the presumption of innocence and a right to a trial by a jury of your peers? As always, it depends what you think.
Exactly, it can be very biased, such as on individual knowledge or culture. Some folk who live in common law countries believe that presumption of innocence doesn't exist elsewhere or that juries are superior, so have a mistaken belief of relative freedom.
posted by Jehan at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2012


> Some folk [...] have a mistaken belief of relative freedom.

A good many, no doubt. An old UN Freedom Index (that I've not been able to find again) had sub-indices that included freedom of press and transparency of government, and on that scale New Zealand topped the Freedom listing.

Australia and the US were surprisingly some way down. ... can't recall where UK and Canada sat.

I'm not surprised New Zealand does well in the Legatum Prosperity Index. They punch above their weight.
posted by de at 11:54 AM on November 24, 2012


One of the things that shocked me when I first move to the us was the number of signs forbidding things or giving orders in public spaces. It is easy to get desensitized to it, but for a few weeks I felt like I was living inside a high security installation.

If you travel abroad, do the test. Take a half hour walk in some major city's downtown and count all the signs that warn you or threaten you with jail or fines. You may be surprised.

There are other small indicators that the US is really not that big on personal freedoms. The only other country where I have seen more restrictions in a lease agreement is Switzerland, and I have never lived in country were everyday I meet people who remain in crappy underpaid jobs because they are terrified of losing health insurance. I've stayed in bad jobs for long periods because they were the best paid ones in the market, but never out of fear.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 12:13 PM on November 24, 2012


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