Interesting Europe-US Statistics

Old Jun 10th, 2002, 08:52 PM
Steve Mueller
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Interesting Europe-US Statistics

While searching back issues of the Economist for some tax comparisons discussed in another thread, I discovered some interesting statistics reported in the "Indicators" section. Although, typically, these indicators are of purely economic interest, a few address social issues and are surprisingly relevant to some of the discussions and debates in this forum.

Some of the numbers flatly contradict the stereotypes that are sometimes cited in these threads. For example, US and British obesity rates differ by a mere 3%. Believe it or not, French workers only strike about twice as often as American workers, whereas Spanish workers strike about ten times as much.

The Economist is a British publication that addresses the economic, political and social issues affecting Europe and the world.

Note that the numbers are estimated from bar charts and may be slightly in error.


Minimum Wage (Dec 8, 2001)
In US $ per hour (rounded to nearest 0.5)
US 5, Britain 6, France 6, Netherlands 6.5, France NA

Labor Disputes (May 12, 2001)
Annual working days lost to strikes per 1000 workers
Spain 310, France 80, US 35, Britain 25, Germany 10

Part-time Workers (Jul 28, 2001)
% of total workforce
Netherlands 32, Britain 23, Germany 18, France 14, US 13

Percent with body mass index > 30
US 23, Britain 20, France 10, Netherlands 8, Germany NA

Educational Attainment (Nov 3, 2001)
At least upper secondary (e.g., high school grad)
US 85, Britain 80, Germany 80, Netherlands 63, France 60
US 27, Netherlands 20, Britain 16, Germany 12, France 10

Refugees (June 1, 2002)
Millions - note that these numbers do not include all immigrants
Germany 1.0, US 0.9, Netherlands 0.25, Britain 0.2, France NA

Automobiles (Apr 21, 2001)
per 1000 people
Germany 510, US 490, France 480, Netherlands 390, Britain 390

Human Development Index (Jul 14, 2001)
This is a UN-derived measure of well being that combines GDP per capita (the traditional measure) with life expectancy and educational attainment.
Although the US is ranked 3rd, below Norway and Canada, the numeric value is virtually the same for these countries plus Japan, France, Britain and Germany.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 12:15 AM
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Steve, interesting observations. Re obesity, there was a news item just last week that roughly half of Belgians are overweight and about 15% are obese--and the numbers are rising.
BTilke (Brussels)
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 12:54 AM
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Figures can be misleading. For example the dropout rate for universities is far lower than it is in the US. In some countries universities are not the only institutions offering higher education.
When I graduated in the UK only 5% were accepted by universities. You could argue that by increasing numbers standards inevitably have to drop.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 03:46 AM
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The Economist's figures for obesity in the US are out-of-date, which isn't surprising considering how fast the rate has been rising. According to the CDC, the proportion of Americans whose BMI is over 30 has risen to OVER 50 percent!
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 03:50 AM
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I'm afraid I don't have the citation handy, but World Health Organization (as I recall) data shows that the rate of smoking in the U.S. is greater than that for France. Seems hard to believe, but apparently true.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 06:16 AM
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According to WHO, 1.2 billion people globally are overweight, possibly due to trends to urbanization.

Old Jun 11th, 2002, 06:19 AM
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The statement that over 50% of Americans have a body mass index over 30 is incorrect. The correct figures (61% over 25, i.e., overweight; 27% over 30, i.e., obese) are at this page:

Old Jun 11th, 2002, 06:57 AM
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jahoulih, it seems you have caught an error in the CDC's own web page that I cited -- it states that "Currently, more than half of all U.S. adults are considered overweight, defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more." But the definition of "overweight" apparently is a BMI of 25-29.9.

But even the page jahoulih cited points out that obesity had risen to 27 percent in 1999. No doubt it's higher now, given the persistent trend.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 09:29 AM
Steve Mueller
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Regarding the obesity comments, during my last trip to Germany, I noticed a lot more overweight people than on previous trips. Maybe all western democracies are getting fatter. There is still one sharp distinction between the US and Europe - in Europe, you rarely see the grossly obese people that are not difficult to spot in the US.

I agree that education statistics can be misleading. For example, higher college attendance rates may reflect economic conditions as much as attitudes toward education. When jobs are scarce, postponing work for college may be an appealing option. Also, during periods of high unemployment, people already in college may opt to stay longer (e.g., graduate school, etc.).
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 09:56 AM
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Checking body mass is the only way to determine overweight. This is done more frequently in the USA than in Europe. The statistics are not very accurate.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 11:21 AM
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Having recently returned from Northern Italy I'd agree that there are lots of fat Germans. However I'd agree that you rarely see a European as grossly obese as some people are in the US.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 11:34 AM
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Steve: Re: "Believe it or not, French workers only strike about twice as often as American workers,..."

That's very interesting conclusion you draw from the statistic you presented: "Annual working days lost to strikes per 1000 workers: Spain 310, France 80, US 35,"

The statistic only mentions the number of annual working days lost to strikes. It says nothing about the frequency of strikes (i.e. "as often"). French may very well strike ten, or twenty times as often as American workers, but for shorter periods of time.

For example, I was stuck in Nice one day a few years ago when the railway workers went on a one-day strike ("la greve", I believe these brief strikes are called) to protest safety issues (apparently a conductor had been assaulted on a train near Marseilles.)
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 11:42 AM
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Anybody else miss Capo's point altogether???
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 11:48 AM
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Here's a hint: "as often" implies frequency.

Just because the annual number of working days lost to strikes per 1000 workers is 80 in France and 35 in the US, one cannot conclude that the French strike approximately 2.3 times as often as Americans.

We may both go on strike a total of 50 days each year but if I go on strike on 50 separate days, for one day at a time, whereas you go on strike once, for 50 days, then I go on strike 50 times as often as you do.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 11:57 AM
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I just returned from Mexico and, despite the sterotype of poverty, we were shocked at the number of truly obese Mexicans we saw in the cities. A local friend said it was the high starch diet of corn, beans, breads, etc. He also said that they are mad for cheap, "penny" candies which are pure sugar.

Speaking only for the cities, I would guess their rate of obesity to at least equal if not surpass anything I've seen in the States.
Old Jun 11th, 2002, 12:07 PM
Steve Mueller
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I know exactly what Capo is saying. In the US, strikes are much less common but tend to last a lot longer. French workers go on strike at the drop of a hat, but are only out a day or two. US workers usually only strike as a last resort, but those strikes can last a long time - in some cases for years.
Old Jun 14th, 2002, 02:44 PM
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As has been mentioned already statistics is interesting, but that usually assumes there is an explanation following it. To mention a few details which would be nice to know, how many % does a "part-time worker" work ? How many people has the minimum wage rather than what it is ? And especially the educational indicators are really really difficult to compare, since the details varies too much. You are basicly comparing apples to cucumbers
But I would like to be able to read the whole article, you don't have any links ?

Old Jun 14th, 2002, 02:57 PM
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Strange how Italy was left out of these figures.
I can't imagine any country beats them when it comes to strikes.
They are right up there with the Spanish and probably beat them.

They also have high numbers of refugees and tons of cars.
Old Jun 14th, 2002, 02:58 PM
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Sindre, the Economist prints a lot of statistics without accompanying articles and I understood the original post to say that that is the case in this instance. But I've been wrong before. :- )
Old Jun 14th, 2002, 03:23 PM
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Maybe that was the thread I wrote a post on asking for diff. country tax rates, as I was interested in that -- I couldn't find it yet, it must be down there somewhere (I was busy a couple days and couldn't read posts).

Anyway, full disclosure, I have a master's degree in statistics (specifically biostatistics and epidemiology within the Public Health school) and I work in the health policy field, incl. health economics so that's why these things interest me, and I do have a lot of them and deal with CDC stats, etc. I don't think the smoking rate is higher in the US than France, although they aren't as diff. as many people believe.

The Economist doesn't always explain things well, I agree. As for the obesity WHO reports I've seen (which may use a diff. definition than CDC), the fattest country in the world is Micronesia, I remembered that one. I also remember the US obesity rates are not that diff. from UK and Germany, in particular, and I think some E. Eur counties and Russia were higher than US.

Thanks for the stats, Steve
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