Comparing countries

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El Pollo Diablo
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Comparing countries

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am

If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use? What measures would you avoid? Obviously, all measures have flaws, and data collection isn't always straightforward, but what would be a good, fair set of measures to compare them? I'm thinking here across a whole range of aspects of life, such as economic, politics, health, quality of life, and so on.

Some ideas include the following:

- GDP per capita
- Human Development Index
- Gini coefficient
- Democracy index
- Health outcomes / healthcare system (life expectancy, % women dying in childbirth, etc)
- Quality of life
- Happiness
- Religiosity

Any others? And any of the above which are so problematic that they should be ignored (I reckon there should be a high bar for this)?
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Nero » Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:59 am

Child mortatlity?

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Lew Dolby » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:08 am

<already covered, sorry>
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Imrael » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:17 am

Are there any good measures of social mobility. I also thought about homelessness rates and poverty rates, but either might end up suffering from non-comparable measurements.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by lpm » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:21 am

Years in education, including girls vs boys difference
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by bagpuss » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:38 am

Crime rates? Although I can see that being a tricky one to compare across countries due to how the stats are captured (reported crimes vs crime surveys, for example).

Maybe murder rates would be a single stat that's slightly more comparable across countries than some other crimes.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by TopBadger » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:49 am

Difference between median and mean full time income? (smaller difference implying more equal society?)
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by headshot » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:51 am

Home ownership
Homelessness
Drug laws
Equality laws (gender, race, sexuality etc)

Some of those aren't statistically measurable, but I know that I wouldn't want much to do with a country that outlaws homosexuality or limits women's rights.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by dyqik » Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:59 am

headshot wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:51 am
Home ownership
Homelessness
Drug laws
Equality laws (gender, race, sexuality etc)

Some of those aren't statistically measurable, but I know that I wouldn't want much to do with a country that outlaws homosexuality or limits women's rights.
Home ownership is a complex one, as the desirability of it depends on the legal protections for renters and renting culture. Where renters have strong protections, rents aren't as high relative to home ownership costs, and multi-year leases are common, then home ownership isn't necessarily so desirable a thing.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Gfamily » Mon Jan 09, 2023 12:15 pm

Representation and participation of people in minority groups (whether ethnic, disability, LGBTQ+ etc). ETA - real participation, not just the presence of 'laws'.
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by bjn » Mon Jan 09, 2023 12:31 pm

TopBadger wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:49 am
Difference between median and mean full time income? (smaller difference implying more equal society?)
If you are trying to get a feel for how income is distributed, doesn't the Gini Coefficient cover that already?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by lpm » Mon Jan 09, 2023 12:34 pm

Meh. If you want a thousand variables, just keep adding anything you want.

If you want a single metric that tells the entire story, simply go for years in education, including girls vs boys difference.

This single measurement will reveal GDP per capita, child mortality, health outcomes, gini coefficient, poverty rates, crime, LGBT prejudice and overall quality of life.
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Jan 09, 2023 12:50 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am
If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use? What measures would you avoid? Obviously, all measures have flaws, and data collection isn't always straightforward, but what would be a good, fair set of measures to compare them? I'm thinking here across a whole range of aspects of life, such as economic, politics, health, quality of life, and so on.

Some ideas include the following:

- GDP per capita
- Human Development Index
- Gini coefficient
- Democracy index
- Health outcomes / healthcare system (life expectancy, % women dying in childbirth, etc)
- Quality of life
- Happiness
- Religiosity

Any others? And any of the above which are so problematic that they should be ignored (I reckon there should be a high bar for this)?
Of course there are some exceptions, but in general GDP per capita tends to be correlated with a lot of other outcomes, eg health, life expectancy, education, even happiness (measured by people answering surveys). By that I mean when comparing, say, Spain with Peru, rather than Spain with Italy.

I think that the following, in no particular order, will capture many of the differences:

GDP per capita.
Democracy.
Changes in biodiversity and land use.
Violent deaths (homicide, war etc).
Ratio between income tax and taxes on national resource extraction as a proportion of total government spending.
Maternal mortality.
Religious observance.
Urban population.
The extent to which data on the above is available.

They are either things that have a very broad implications (eg GDP per capita or democracy) where there are well developed data sources already, or indicators which are readily available for most countries (eg maternal mortality tells a lot about the general treatment of women).

It could be that some of the above can also be covered just by GDP per capita.

ETA - inequality should probably be included as well.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:01 pm

Carbon balance per capita (cumulative and current).
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by IvanV » Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:09 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am
If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use?
It would depend in part on what kind of a country it was, developed, developing, failing, etc. Not necessarily for the kinds of things to try and understand, but for the way you might try and measure them. Though, as I shall indicate below, there are some things that you might be interested in for less than fully developed countries that would be less interesting for developed countries.

I would definitely try to include measures of inequality, and some stratification. I think these are critical to understanding what kind of a place we are dealing with. These matters can be very confounding and hard to summarise in a single statistic. For example Chile is both the country with the highest levels of inequality in South America, by standard measures. But it is also the South American country where the poor stratum of society is the least poor in absolute terms.

In less fully developed countries, I would be interested in knowing what proportion of the labour force has a formal job. Being self-employed in countries like India is for most a matter of necessity rather than choice, and these tend to be the poorest and most insecure part of the population. So, as with India, a country with a low proportion of formal jobs gives you an indication of that kind of Indian situation. Whereas Chile, I guess, would be the country in South America with the highest proportion of the labour force in formal jobs, and that's why it is a more financially secure place to live for the poorest elements of society than most other South American countries. But this is probably not very interesting for fully developed economies, where self-employment is generally a matter of choice.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by dyqik » Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:17 pm

IvanV wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:09 pm
El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am
If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use?
It would depend in part on what kind of a country it was, developed, developing, failing, etc. Not necessarily for the kinds of things to try and understand, but for the way you might try and measure them. Though, as I shall indicate below, there are some things that you might be interested in for less than fully developed countries that would be less interesting for developed countries.

I would definitely try to include measures of inequality, and some stratification. I think these are critical to understanding what kind of a place we are dealing with. These matters can be very confounding and hard to summarise in a single statistic. For example Chile is both the country with the highest levels of inequality in South America, by standard measures. But it is also the South American country where the poor stratum of society is the least poor in absolute terms.

In less fully developed countries, I would be interested in knowing what proportion of the labour force has a formal job. Being self-employed in countries like India is for most a matter of necessity rather than choice, and these tend to be the poorest and most insecure part of the population. So, as with India, a country with a low proportion of formal jobs gives you an indication of that kind of Indian situation. Whereas Chile, I guess, would be the country in South America with the highest proportion of the labour force in formal jobs, and that's why it is a more financially secure place to live for the poorest elements of society than most other South American countries. But this is probably not very interesting for fully developed economies, where self-employment is generally a matter of choice.
I'm guessing that some of this gets very complicated where there are tribes of indigenous peoples living traditional lives in a country as well as people living pseudo-western lives. South American countries can be very complex that way (e.g. see the recent moves in Brazil to increase indigenous representation in government, or even the US!). The absolute numbers of indigenous peoples may be low, but how you count them (are they even included in the central government figures?) could affect equality measures considerably.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:41 pm

dyqik wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:17 pm
IvanV wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 1:09 pm
El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am
If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use?
It would depend in part on what kind of a country it was, developed, developing, failing, etc. Not necessarily for the kinds of things to try and understand, but for the way you might try and measure them. Though, as I shall indicate below, there are some things that you might be interested in for less than fully developed countries that would be less interesting for developed countries.

I would definitely try to include measures of inequality, and some stratification. I think these are critical to understanding what kind of a place we are dealing with. These matters can be very confounding and hard to summarise in a single statistic. For example Chile is both the country with the highest levels of inequality in South America, by standard measures. But it is also the South American country where the poor stratum of society is the least poor in absolute terms.

In less fully developed countries, I would be interested in knowing what proportion of the labour force has a formal job. Being self-employed in countries like India is for most a matter of necessity rather than choice, and these tend to be the poorest and most insecure part of the population. So, as with India, a country with a low proportion of formal jobs gives you an indication of that kind of Indian situation. Whereas Chile, I guess, would be the country in South America with the highest proportion of the labour force in formal jobs, and that's why it is a more financially secure place to live for the poorest elements of society than most other South American countries. But this is probably not very interesting for fully developed economies, where self-employment is generally a matter of choice.
I'm guessing that some of this gets very complicated where there are tribes of indigenous peoples living traditional lives in a country as well as people living pseudo-western lives. South American countries can be very complex that way (e.g. see the recent moves in Brazil to increase indigenous representation in government, or even the US!). The absolute numbers of indigenous peoples may be low, but how you count them (are they even included in the central government figures?) could affect equality measures considerably.
Yes, indeed. The same applies to those who live in urban slums and other marginalized people who may well not be counted in the statistics.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by noggins » Mon Jan 09, 2023 2:07 pm

I agree with lpm . Female literacy is key.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by discovolante » Tue Jan 10, 2023 9:37 am

Distribution of capital?
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by dyqik » Tue Jan 10, 2023 1:00 pm

discovolante wrote:
Tue Jan 10, 2023 9:37 am
Distribution of capital?
Yeah, that has to go hand in hand with distribution of income.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by KAJ » Tue Jan 10, 2023 6:41 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am
If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use? What measures would you avoid? <snip> I'm thinking here across a whole range of aspects of life, such as economic, politics, health, quality of life, and so on.

Some ideas include the following:

- GDP per capita
- Human Development Index
- Gini coefficient
- Democracy index
- Health outcomes / healthcare system (life expectancy, % women dying in childbirth, etc)
- Quality of life
- Happiness
- Religiosity

Any others? And any of the above which are so problematic that they should be ignored (I reckon there should be a high bar for this)?
You'll have to define your objective(s) much more precisely to arrive at any cromulent conclusion.

With "a whole range of aspects" you'll have to decide how to combine and weight them (and/or the underlying "measures") to get a single overall value for each country to allow ranking. That is non-trivial. With a number of "measures" comparable to the number of countries you can choose weightings to get any specified ranking.

As I've said, this is a non-trivial topic. This Wikipedia article gives a flavour.

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by jdc » Tue Jan 10, 2023 7:24 pm

If you want a thousand variables, how about adding incarceration rates?

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Re: Comparing countries

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jan 11, 2023 6:57 am

KAJ wrote:
Tue Jan 10, 2023 6:41 pm
El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon Jan 09, 2023 10:26 am
If you were to try to build up a picture of the relative state of a country compared to others, what measures would you use? What measures would you avoid? <snip> I'm thinking here across a whole range of aspects of life, such as economic, politics, health, quality of life, and so on.

Some ideas include the following:

- GDP per capita
- Human Development Index
- Gini coefficient
- Democracy index
- Health outcomes / healthcare system (life expectancy, % women dying in childbirth, etc)
- Quality of life
- Happiness
- Religiosity

Any others? And any of the above which are so problematic that they should be ignored (I reckon there should be a high bar for this)?
You'll have to define your objective(s) much more precisely to arrive at any cromulent conclusion.

With "a whole range of aspects" you'll have to decide how to combine and weight them (and/or the underlying "measures") to get a single overall value for each country to allow ranking. That is non-trivial. With a number of "measures" comparable to the number of countries you can choose weightings to get any specified ranking.

As I've said, this is a non-trivial topic. This Wikipedia article gives a flavour.
I said "comparing", not "ranking".
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by lpm » Wed Jan 11, 2023 7:56 am

This is the dumbest thread ever. The opening poster asked a vague question and is now grumpy about useful answers.
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Re: Comparing countries

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jan 11, 2023 9:00 am

Well not really. I'm fully aware of how to combine numbers using weighting, it's just not what I said I wanted to do.
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