Sunday, February 20, 2011

U.S. "worst of the worst" by several socioeconomic measures

Click on chart to enlarge.

In yesterday's NY Times.
h/t fb friend Kristinn


The Archer of the Forest said...

The prison one is the only one that stands out to me because its off the chart.

There is also an error in the Math skills column, as there are a few countries with lower numbers that are not in the ominous blood red category. Even then its not like the best of the best are really that much statistically better, particular if you factor in some of the best countries don't test all their students across the board. Many countries funnel what we call "vocational ed" students into special vocational schools that that do not given the variety standardized testing.

I would also note that this is a pretty cherry picked list, as most of the countries are 1st world countries, which makes out average life expectancy look awful good. South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil aren't even on there.

I'm also curious how they label us as not the best in terms of democracy, and would also quibble over the unemployment rates, particularly in Western Europe. The way Europe has created socialized economies, all unskilled labor has been forced to flee those countries to look for work.

I would also somewhat quibble over the income inequality. Some of those "best countries" are either everybody's poor or else anyone with an income over $500,000 are taxed so highly that the government takes every single dime you earn over a million. And yet its those countries that have the highest level of democratic representation.

I question this graph. It's pretty squishy.

caheidelberger said...

I don't think it's squishy to compare us to other "First World" countries and see how we stack up. If we have to compare ourselves to Mexico to make ourselves look good, we aren't fulfilling the American dream. The wide range of categories in which we rank far from #1 suggests we are from from exceptional.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Some of these are not first world countries though. That's my point. This chart seemed to be skewed on that. Malta and Singapore but not China or South Africa? Anytime numbers an d statistics are getting thrown around (particularly very bizarre standards like 'Level of Democracy' and 'Global Wellbeing Index' that can be easily manipulated to say whatever you want them to say, you need as large a sampling as possible.

caheidelberger said...

Why not include Malta and Singapore? Both are relatively modernized and industrialized, probably closer to the U.S. in overall development that China and South Africa. I'd look at it this way: there isn't a nation on this list we shouldn't be able to beat.

Unemployment is a pretty solid statistic. The Gini index is pretty well recognized. Life expectancy is a pretty good measure of all the stuff that can go wrong to shorten lives. As Dr. Newquist points out, if America is so exceptional, it ought to be doing exceptionally well. And if all of these numbers are just squishy statistical legerdemain, then by what metric do we measure greatness? I think the rhetoric of American exceptionalism is much squishier than any of the columns above.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Is Greatness what this is suppose to be measuring?

Danny Dolan said...

I personally think "income inequality" as a rating criteria is likely to play to the covetousness in us. A friend on Facebook posted about how horrible it is that education and experience don't automatically translate to better pay in the private sector. (She's a teacher in Wisconsin, taking part in the protests against the governor.) My thought is, what I have is what I have produced with the talents my Lord has given to me. If I spend my time worrying about those that have more than me, I'm going to be a very unhappy person, and I'm going to ruin my own ability to appreciate the blessings I have.

I have a friend from Romania who lived under the communist system there until it fell. He's told me, there was "income fairness" in theory, but no incentive to work harder than required, and very little innovation. The single Romanian car manufacturer made one model for about 12 years running, and there was no variation. Meanwhile, here in America, rich or poor, we have a huge variety of cars, cell phones, etc.

Only in America do we have overweight poor people, and homeless with cell phones. This is what we get for our freedom. Like Thomas Jefferson, "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

Are there injustices in how people are paid for their work? Sure. Should we stand against them, where we find them? Absolutely. But having one person make more money than I do does not constitute an injustice. When someone pays me less than what we have freely agreed between the two of us, that is an injustice.