American Exceptionalism, shake hands with Inconvenient Facts.
Monday, July 9, 2012 at 05:55PM
Skeptic in Economics, Favorites, Politics

A big reason why America keeps drifting ever deeper into mediocrity is a misperception about how far we have already declined, how determined and effective our foreign competition is, and how ineffective minor tweaks to current policies are likely to be. I documented some measures of our decline, to which most Americans and apparently all politicians are oblivious, in Yeah! We're Number 40, 11, 16, 22, 24, 27, 48, and 29! and the updates to it.  Recently, Ed Fullbrook has published an e-book, Decline of the USA, which contains almost no text but shows in charts our ranking among 30 OECD nations in 56 indicators in seven categories. Overall USA ranked 29th, ahead of only Mexico. Recall that before its expansion to 34 nations in 2010 OECD members included not only all the prosperous nations of western Europe, Canada, and Japan, but also unenviable nations like Portugal, Turkey, Poland, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovak Republic. USA ranked behind all of them.

Out of 56 rankings, USA was in the top ten only once (labor productivity in GDP per hour worked). USA was in the second ten only 11 times and was in the bottom ten 44 times. In the seven larger categories, USA was in the middle of the pack on education and last or near last in all other categories:

Health                              28/30

Family                              30/30

Education                         18/30

Income and Leisure            27/30

Freedom and Democracy    28/30

Public Order and Safety      30/30

Generosity                         24/24 (data not available for all 30)

Update on Friday, July 20, 2012 at 03:01PM by Registered CommenterSkeptic

Large cities in America, where the digital age was invented, now have generally slower and more expensive internet services, according to this recent report from The New America Foundation:

The results indicate that U.S. consumers in major cities tend to pay higher prices for slower speeds compared to consumers abroad. For example, when comparing triple play packages in the 22 cities surveyed, consumers in Paris can purchase a 100 Mbps bundle of television, telephone, and high-speed Internet service for the equivalent of approximately $35 (adjusted for PPP). By contrast, in Lafayette, LA, the top American city, the cheapest available package costs around $65 and includes just a 6 Mbps Internet connection. A comparison of Internet plans available for around $35 shows similar results.  Residents of Hong Kong have access to Internet service with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 500 Mbps while residents of New York City and Washington, D.C. will pay the equivalent price for Internet service with maximum download speeds that are 20 times slower (up to 25 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 2 Mbps).

The results add weight to a growing body of evidence that suggests that the U.S. is lagging behind many of its international counterparts, most of whom have much higher levels of competition and, in turn, offer lower prices and faster Internet service. It suggests that policymakers need to re-evaluate our current policy approaches to increase competition and encourage more affordable high-speed Internet service in the U.S. 

Update on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 03:54PM by Registered CommenterSkeptic

Ezra Klein reports that median net worth of Americans is lower than for 16 other developed countries:  Australia, Italy, Japan, UK, Switzerland, Ireland, France, Canada, Norway, Finland, Spain, New Zealand, Netherlands, Israel, China/Taiwan, and Germany.

The chart is based on Table 7.1 of this Credit Suisse report (pdf). Hat tip Angry Bear.

Update on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 02:25PM by Registered CommenterSkeptic

Mark Rice, Chair of American Studies at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, maintains an interesting blog, Ranking America, in which he posts country rankings on an extraordinarily broad range of topics. Recent posts report that Americans are #2 (right behind Romania) among 35 advanced nations in childhood poverty.  The US ranks 45th in civil liberties, which is the "lowest of any fully democratic countries."  Perhaps the most devastating is that the US ranks 50th in measured lengths of erect penises.  How tiny is it?  Details here

Update on Friday, October 18, 2013 at 01:28PM by Registered CommenterSkeptic

The 2013 Credit Suisse report is out.  Table 3.1 shows that 26 nations have higher median net worth per adult than the US. 

1 Australia $219,505
2 Luxembourg $182,768
3 Belgium $148,141
4 France $141,850
5 Italy $138,653
6 United Kingdom $111,524
7 Japan $110,294
8 Iceland $104,733
9 Switzerland $95,916
10 Finland $95,095
11 Norway $92,859
12 Singapore $90,466
13 Canada $90,252
14 Netherlands $83,631
15 New Zealand $76,607
16 Ireland $75,573
17 Spain $63,306
18 Qatar $58,237
19 Denmark $57,675
20 Austria $57,450
21 Greece $53,937
22 Taiwan $53,336
23 Sweden $52,677
24 United Arab Emirates $51,882
25 Germany $49,370
26 Slovenia $44,932
27 United States $44,911


Hat tip to Kenneth Thomas, who did the sorting and has a good discussion here

Article originally appeared on realitybase (
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