How to measure a country

There are many ways to measure the health/success of a country. A common way is GDP per capita. There are two problems with this ranking however: first, it is a measure of money spent which doesn’t tell you how happy or healthy a population is; and second, it is an average which are susceptible to being skewed by non-bell curved distributions. While a median is a better number, a graph is most illustrative.

Another way to measure is with the HDI. This is better but still has the problem of being an average. This is where the IHDI comes in. This takes the non-bell curved distribution (i.e. inequality) into account. When we look at this measure, these are the top 10 (as of 2013):

Rank Country IHDI
1  Norway 0.891
2  Australia 0.860
3  Netherlands 0.854
4   Switzerland 0.847
5  Germany 0.846
6  Iceland 0.843
7  Sweden 0.840
8  Denmark 0.838
9  Canada 0.833
10  Ireland 0.832

A related measure is called the GPI and includes environmental and social factors which are not measured by GDP.

A fourth way to measure countries is with the GNH index. This is a newer concept and tries to capture the happiness of a population. The difficulty with this is that it’s hard to measure happiness as it is a subjective thing. Further it does not measure the society’s impact on the environment.

A fifth way is called the Happy Planet Index does measure a country’s environmental impact. Here are the bottom 10:


Rank Country HPI Experienced
111  Denmark 36.6 7.8 78.8 8.3
110  Mauritius 36.6 5.5 73.4 4.6
109  Afghanistan 36.8 4.8 48.7 0.5
108  Rwanda 36.9 4.0 55.4 0.7
107  Belgium 37.1 6.9 80.0 7.1
106  Djibouti 37.2 5.0 57.9 1.8
105  United States 37.3 7.2 78.5 7.2
104  Belarus 37.4 5.5 70.3 4.0
103  Hungary 37.4 4.7 74.4 3.6
102  Hong Kong 37.5 5.6 82.8 5.8

This just goes to show that ranking highly on all measures is a difficult task. That doesn’t mean we should accept the status quo nor strive to improve things. What it does mean is that we should consider all aspects of well being (health, equality, environment, etc.) when we strive to improve things.

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