Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why are some Countries Better than Others? A Look at Size, Income, Crime and Longevity - Part Three


This article  attempts to show that country SIZE (population) , as an independent variable, can predict quality of life. That is, smaller countries enjoy a better quality of life than larger countries. The dependent variable - quality of life - is operationalized  through  three indicators: per capita GDP, the murder rate, and life expectancy. It is shown that smaller countries indeed enjoy higher per capita income, lower murder rates, and longer life expectancy. Correlations between the three dependent variables are also examined: As expected, the relationship between per capita GDP and life expectancy is positive, and the relationship between the murder rate and life expectancy is negative. However, the relationship between per capita GDP and the murder rate turned out to be POSITIVE, which came as a surprise.

This study is largely descriptive, not explanatory. While I offer a few explanations, my aim is not  to provide a detailed causal analysis. The relationships I  examine are quite possibly spurious. They are certainly part of a much more complex set of variables, including political, cultural and geographical  factors. However, these data offer a global view of  how four major variables interact.
The Descriptive Data

First, I ranked the world’s 230 countries and jurisdictions in order of population size, from smallest to largest:
I then grouped the 230 countries into 23 groups of 10 each, and computed  each group’s average population, per capita GDP, murder rate and life expectancy.


1. The relationship between country size and  standard of living, as measured by per capita income:
The 23 groups of countries were divided into the 12 richest groups and the 11 poorest groups, and into the 12 smallest groups of countries and the 11 largest groups. In table One below, the  Chi Square value  shows that  the predicted relationship between country size and per capita income is significant at the .05 level. As mentioned earlier, this  is not really a “test of significance,” since I am not analyzing a sample. It merely expresses the STRENGTH of the relationship.

Table One: The Relationship between Country Size and Per Capita Income

Rich Countries
Poor Countries
Small Countries
Large Countries
Chi Square: 5.24. Significant at .05 level

Comments:  As I tabulated the 230 countries of the world, I was struck by the very large number of small island nations with very low  per capita income, largely located in the Pacific and in the Caribbean.  Anticipating a rejection of my hypothesis, it occurred to me that my prediction had been  based on my experience in the Western world, primarily in Europe. There,  small  jurisdictions such as Monaco, Luxembourg, San Marino and Liechtenstein tend to be very affluent. But my hypothesis is apparently  valid worldwide.
The ten smallest countries of the world have an average population of 5,555 people. The ten largest countries of the world  - China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Japan - have an average population of 417,840,000 people. They range from the Vatican, with 451 people, to China, with a population of 1.375 billion. There are 71 countries in the world with a population of less than one million, and 11 countries with more than one hundred million each.

The world’s annual  per capita GDP is $13,100. It ranges from $600 for the two poorest countries - Somalia and the Central African Republic - to $102,000 for Qatar.

Africa is by far the poorest continent. 17 of the 20 poorest countries are in Africa. 9 of the 20 richest are in Europe and 5 are in the Middle East.

America is the 19th richest country in the world. It is the most notable exception to my hypothesis linking affluence to small size.

2. The relationship between country size and crime, as measured by the murder rate:
Using the same methodology, Table Two, below, shows the relationship between these two variables. 

Table Two: The Relationship between Country Size and Murder Rate

 High Murder Rate
Low Murder Rate
Small Countries
Large Countries
Chi Square: 1.1. Not significant at .10 level, however,  “directional” support for hypothesis.

Comments: Again, what the Chi Square value reveals is not a matter of statistical significance, but the strength of the relationship. What Table Two indicates  is that small countries tend to have a lower murder rate than large countries, but that this relationship is not very strong.

The world’s average annual murder rate is 6.9 per 100,000. It  ranges from 0 to 90.4. Countries which have a zero murder rate include the Vatican, Tokelau, Liechtenstein and  Monaco. The country with the highest murder rate is Honduras (90.4) followed by Venezuela (82.0), El Salvador (58,3), US Virgin Islands (52.6), St. Kitts &Nevis (46.0), Belize (44.7), Jamaica (44.3), and Guatemala (39.9). Thus, the top eight murder countries in the world are all in the Western Hemisphere, most of them in Latin America. Their average  rate is 57.3, or eight and a half times that of the world.

The US murder rate is 4.6, which is lower than the world average, but higher than that of other developed countries in the West and elsewhere.

As to why the relationship between country size and murder rate is not as strong as I expected it to be: There are, in the worldwide distribution of murder rates, apparently some extreme outliers among the very poor small island nations. For example Dominica has a rate of 21.1,  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’s rate is 22.7, Saint Lucia’s is 23.5,  St. Kitts & Nevis’s is 46.0 and  that of the  U.S. Virgin Islands is 52.6. By comparison, the world’s murder rate is 6.9.

In absolute numbers and by continent, the total number of people murdered in any given year is largest in Africa and smallest in Oceania. This is shown in Table Three, below:

              Table Three: Murder by Continents.


Note: The murder numbers in this study only include individual criminal murders. They exclude other forms of violence such as  war, genocide, state-sponsored terrorism as well as individual acts of terrorism,  and the various forms of mass annihilation described in Abram De Swaan's book The Killing Compartments: The mentality of Mass Murder (Yale University Press, 2015). For example, the current Syrian war, the Tutsi genocide in 1994 and the 9/11 attack are EXCLUDED from this study's statistics. However, the murders committed by drug cartels in Mexico and in Columbia (for example by FARC) are included.

3. The relationship between country size and life expectancy:

(To be continued)
© Tom Kando 2015

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