World’s Richest Countries

The magazine The Economist of Nov 5, 2011 shows this chart of the world’s richest countries on page 56:

I suspect that the average American on the street will not be able to point to most of these countries on a map. I admit I would have had problems with Qatar, although I would have found the general neighborhood, I would not have been able to point to the right spot. The same goes for United Arab Emirates. And most definitely Brunei. Where the heck is Brunei? I think I would have found Singapore. Still, I think I would have done better than 90% of the people out there.

This is a very misleading chart. Take away the United States. What do all the remaining countries have in common? They are tiny. Here is the list:

Country Population
Netherlands 16,715,489
Switzerland 7,870,100
Hong Kong 7,108,100
United States 312,642,000
United Arab   Emirates 8,264,070
Brunei 422,700
Norway 4,978,000
Singapore 5,183,700
Luxembourg 511,840
Qatar 1,699,435

The smallest state in the United States, according to population, is Wyoming with 544,000 people. Wyoming alone is bigger than Luxembourg or Brunei. The big giant in this group is the Netherlands, with 16 million people. This is still only about 5% of the United States population. Adding up the population of all the other countries in the list makes about 52 million, which is about a fifth of the population of the United States.

When you look at it in graphic format, it’s even more drastic.

This chart is misleading, because without going through this process, the reader would simply lump the United States in with these other countries. It’s not hard to be rich in Brunei when all the people in the country would fit into a small town like Albany, New York.

The Economist did clearly state that the chart is for GDP per person. It just would have been helpful to point out this minor additional fact and put things into proper perspective.

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