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Just How Exceptional is the US?

The Myth of American Primacy

by DAVID ROSEN

The New Year season is a good time to reflect on the U.S.’s true standing in the world.

Politicians of every stripe ceaselessly repeat the well-worn clich?s about America’s uniqueness and prowess at 4th of July, Memorial Day, election campaign and other patriotic celebrations.

But how exceptional are we?

The following list of some 35 categories compares our standing to other nations.

Sadly, the five categories in which America ranks #1 are Military Expenditure, Incarceration, Marriage, Cosmetic Procedures and Obesity.

Read on ?

U.S. Ranked #1

Military Expenditures (2008)

#1 ? U.S. = $663.2 billion (4% of GDP)
#2 ? China = $98.8 billion (2% of GDP)

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database (2009)

Military Expenditure per GDP (2005)

#1 ? Omar = 11.4%
#25 ? U.S. = 4.2%

Source: CIA Factbook

Incarceration Rate

#1 ? U.S. = 756 per 100,000 (1,613,740 in 2009)
#2 ? Russia = 629 per 100,000 (86,9814 in 2006)

Source: King’s College London International Centre for Prison Studies: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Marriage Rate ("crude," 2007)

#1 ? U.S. = 7.4 per 1,000
#7 ? Denmark = 6.7 per 1,000

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Cosmetic Surgical Procedures (2009)

#1 ? U.S. = 1.5 mil
#2 ? Brazil = 1.0 million

Source: ISAPS

Obesity Rate

#1 ? U.S. = 34% (2008)
#2 ? Mexico = 30% (2006)

Source: OECD

Happiness

#1 ? Costa Rica = 76.1
#114 ? U.S. = 30.7

Source: Happy Planet Index 2.0

Satisfaction with Life Index (2006)

#1 ? Denmark = 273.4
#23 ? U.S. = 246.7

Source: Adrian White, "A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge To Positive Psychology?"

Subjective Well-Being (2007)

#1 ? Denmark = 4.24
#16 ? U.S. = 3.55

Source: World Values Surveys

National Economy

Gross Domestic Product (2009)

#1 ? European Union = $14.4 trillion
#2 ? U.S. = $14.1 trillion

Source: CIA Factbook

Per Capita GDP

#1 ? Lichtenstein = $122,100 (2007)
#11 ? U.S. = $46,000 (2009)

Source: CIA Factbook

Human Poverty Index (2007-2008, lowest)

#1 ? Sweden = 6.3
#17 ? U.S. = 15.4

Source: Human Development Index

Current Account Balance (2009)

#1 ? China = $297.1 billion
#190 ? U.S. = ($378.4 billion)

Source: CIA Factbook

Competitive Economy

#1 ? Switzerland
#4 ? U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Digital Economy

#1 ? Sweden
#3 ? U.S.

Source: Economist Intelligence Group’s "e-readiness"

Information Technology

#1 ? Sweden
#4 ? U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Environmental Impact

Renewable Electricity Production (2009)

#1 ? China = 682.1
#3 ? U.S. = 413.2

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2009

Environmental Impact (worst to best)

#1 ? Brazil
#2 ? U.S.

Source: University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute in Australia

CO-2 Emissions (Climate Change Performance Index, of 56 countries, 2008, best to worst)

#2 ? Germany = 3.0% share
#55 ? U.S. = 21.4% share

Source: Germanwatch

Wellness

Life Expectancy

#1 ? Japan = 82.6 years
#38 ? U.S. = 78.2 years

Source: United Nations (2005-2010)

Infant mortality (to 1,000 live births, 2009)

#1 ? Iceland = 2.9
#33 ? U.S. = 6.3

Source: UN Population Division

National Health Systems

#1 ? France
#37 ? U.S.

Source: World Health Organization

Health Care Expenditures (% of GDP, 2006)

#1 ? France = 11.0%
#37 ? U.S. = 15.8%

Source: OECD

Overweight Rate

#1 ? Mexico = 70% (2006)
#2 ? U.S. = 68% (2008)

Source: OECD

Domestic Life

Divorce Rate (of marriages, 2002)

#1 ? Sweden = 54.9%
#7 ? U.S. = 45.7%

Source: Americans for Divorce Reform

Cohabitation Rate (20 year-old plus, 2007)

#1 ? France = 14.4%
#6 ? U.S. = 5.5%

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Non-Married Childbirths (2007, US and Europe)

#1 ? Sweden = 54.7%
#6 ? U.S. Denmark = 38.5%

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Motherhood Ranking (best to worst)

#1 ? Norway
#28 ? U.S.

Source: Save the Children "Mothers Index"

Gender Gap (narrowest to widest)

#1 ? Iceland
#19 ? U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Education

Secondary School Graduates (2008)

#1 ? S. Korea = 93%
#18 ? U.S.= 73%

Source: OECD

College Graduates (25-34) (2007)

#1 ? Canada = 55.8%
#12 ? U.S. = 40.3%

Source: the College Board

Reading

#1 ? Korea = 539
#15 ? U.S. = 500

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and Shanghai and Hong Kong out-performed the U.S).

Source: OECD PISA

Science Education

#1 ? Finland = 554
#20 ? U.S. = 502

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.

Source: OECD PISA

Math Education

#1 ? Singapore = 562
#28? U.S. = 487

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.

Source: OECD PISA

Telecommunications Services

Internet Users (2008)

#1 ? China = 298 million
#2 ? U.S. = 231 million

Source: CIA Factbook

Wired Broadband (2010)

#1 ? Netherlands = 37.8 per 100 (6.2 mil subscribers)
#14 ? U.S. = 27.1 per 100 (183.3 mil subscribers)

Source: OCED

Wireless Broadband (2010)

#1 ? Korea = 95.0 per 100 (146.3 mil subscribers)
#9 ? U.S. = 44.4 per 100 (136.3 mil subscribers)

Source: OCED

Broadband Data Rate (downsteam)

#1 ? Korea = 36.9 Mb/s
#31 ? U.S. = 9.9 Mb/s

Source: Speedtest

Broadband Data Rate (upsteam)

#1 ? Korea = 20.3 Mb/s
#33 ? U.S. = 2.5 Mb/s

Source: Speedtest

Please add you own categories and circulate.

DAVID ROSEN is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009). He can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com.