Monday, April 11, 2011

Side By Side

Whenever I start to think about how different (and similar) Austria and the United States are, I can't help but think of the scene from "Pulp Fiction" where John Travolta's character, Vincent Vega, is trying to explain how Europe is different from America.  So fitting that his first example is about beer:

Vincent Vega:  You know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Jules Winnfield:  What?
Vincent Vega:  It's the little differences.  I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just, just there it's a little different.
Jules Winnifield:  Example.
Vincent Vega:  Alright, well you can go into a movie theater and buy a beer.  And, I don't mean just like a paper cup, I'm talking about a glass of beer.


And he's right, you can buy beer practically everywhere (at least in Austria) then drink it where ever you please.  Insofar as I can tell, there aren't any open-container laws.  Perhaps their socialist, nanny state (the horror!) trusts that its citizens will exercise some common sense and drink responsibly?!  (Which, by the way, Austrians consume ~50% more beer and three times more wine than Americans.)   Of course, the nearly two weeks of extra vacation per year certainly make it easier to out-drink us. 

As for country growth, however, America comes out on top:  we have a younger population, we breed more, we have a higher population growth rate, and more migrants make their way to our borders.  America is also more ethnically heterogeneous and religiously diverse.  All of the growth and opportunity, though, is not without a downside:  the percentage of Americans below the poverty line is double that in Austria and the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income (GINI Index) places us in the company of countries we don't usually consider our economic peers:  Jamaica, Cameroon, Argentina, and Cote d'Ivoire.  Our Human Development Index score (a composite measure incorporating the health, education, and income dimensions of human development), however, redeems us somewhat as we are ranked up near the front -- fourth highest in the world. 

As for quality of life, Vienna has the edge (annual global quality of life rankings routinely place Vienna in the top three in the world).  I won't speak to the methodology used in the global quality of life rankings, nevertheless, some of the statistics I collected also point to a superior quality of life:  more maternity leave (16 weeks vs. 12 weeks in the U.S.), lower infant mortality rate (coupled with lower per capita health expenditures), higher per capita government social spending (i.e. money spent on infrastructure and public goods/services), less per capita carbon dioxide emissions (cleaner air), and more land protected by the government (i.e.. publicly accessible green space). 

So what to make of all this?  Is either country uniformly better than the other?  Of course not.  For better or worse, the United States shapes policy around the world and assumes a position and responsibilities that smaller countries can avoid.  And perhaps in doing so, this allows those countries to devote more resources to developing a high quality of life accessible to virtually all their citizens. So, odd as it sounds, I'm proud to be an American living in Austria (at least temporarily).









THE WORLD FACTBOOK





Total Area

9,826,674
sq km (3rd largest in world)

83,871 sq
km (113th largest in world)

Capital

Washington, DC (4.421 million)

Vienna (1.693 million)

Population

313,232,044a
(3rd largest in world)

8,217,280a
(92nd largest in world)

                0-14y

20.1%

14%

                15-64y

66.8%

67.7%

                65+

13.1%

18.2%

Median Age

36.9
(males 35.6 / females 38.2)

43 (males
41.9 / females 44)

Population Growth Rate

0.963%
(120th in the world)

0.034%
(191st in the world)

Birth Rate

13.83
births/1,000 population (150th in the world)

8.67
births/1,000 population (216th in the world)

Death Rate

8.38
deaths/1,000 population (89th in the world)

10.14
deaths/1,000 population (54th in the world)

Net Migration Rate

4.18
migrants/1,000 population (23rd in the world)

1.81
migrants/1,000 population (42nd in the world)

Infant Mortality Rate

6.06
deaths/1,000 live births

4.32
deaths/1,000 live births

Life Expectancy at birth

78.37
years

79.78
years

Total Fertility Rate

2.06
children born/woman

1.4
children born/woman

HIV/AIDS Adult Prevalence Rate

0.6% (b)

0.3% (b)

Ethnicities

White
(~80%), Hispanic (~15%) Black (~13%), Asian (~4%), Amerindian/Alaska Native
(~1%), Other/Multiple (~2%)

Austrian
(~91%), former Yugoslav (~4%), Turkish (~2%), German (~1%), Other/Unspecified
(~2%)

Religions

Protestant
(~51%), Roman Catholic (~24%), Mormon (~2%), Other Christian (~2%), Jewish
(~2%), Buddhist (~1%), Muslim (~1%), Other (~3%), Unaffiliated (~12%), None
(~4%)  (c)

Roman
Catholic (~74%), Protestant (~5%), Muslim (~4%), Other (~4%),
Unspecified/Unaffiliated (~2%), None (~12%) (d)

Education Expenditures

5.5% of
GDP (c)

5.4% of
GDP (c)

GDP per capita

$47,400
(e)

$40,300
(e)

Labor Force

154.9
million (e)

3.7
million (e)

Unemployment Rate

9.7% (e)

4.5% (e)

% Population Below Poverty Line

12%

6%

GINI Index

45 (c)

26 (c)

Military Expenditures

4.06% of
GDP (f)

0.8% of
GDP (b)

UNITED NATIONS (UN)





HDI (Human Development Index) (1)

0.902 (4th
in world)

0.851 (25th
in world)

Homicide Rate

5.2 per
100,000

0.5 per
100,000

Robbery Rate

142 per
100,000

62 per 100,000

Internet Users

75.9 per
100 people

71.2 per
100 people

Adolescent Fertility Rate

35.9 per
1,000 women aged 15-19y

12.8 per
1,000 women aged 15-19y

Carbon Dioxide Emissions per capita
(tones)

19.0

8.6

Protected Area (% of terrestrial
area)

14.8

22.9

UN OFFICE OF DRUGS & CRIME





Cannabis (2)

12.5% (h)

3.5% (h)

Cocaine (2)

2.6% (h)

0.9% (h)

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION





Total Expenditure on Health (3)

16.0 % of
GDP (2008)

10.1% of
GDP (2008)

Health Expenditures per capita (3)

$7,285 (c)

$3,763 (c)

Maternity Leave

12 weeks
(b)

16 weeks
(b)

Beer Consumption among adults, 15+
(liters per capita)

4.47

6.70

Wine Consumption among adults, 15+
(liters per capita)

1.36

4.10

% Adults with…





Normal BMI

35.7

56.0

Overweight

66.9

42.0

Obese

33.9

11.0

OECD





Total Tax Revenue (4)

24.0% (b)

42.8% (b)

Household Savings Rate (% of
disposable income)

5.7 (e)

10.0 (e)

Gov’t Social Spending per capita (5)

$7,435

$10,008







Vacation Days per year (6)

25 (3rd
from bottom)

38 (3rd
highest)



a.  July 2011 estimate
b.  2009 estimate
c.  2007 estimate
d.  2001 census
e.  2010 estimate
f.   2005 estimate
g.  2006 estimate
h.  2008 estimate

1.     HDI is a composite measure of three basic dimensions of human development – health, education, and income – and serves as an alternative to conventional measures of national well-being (e.g. level of income).
2.      Annual prevalence among the population aged 15-64 years old.
3.     Total expenditure on health is the total expenditure of all levels of government as well as private health expenditure on health, presented as a proportion (%) of gross domestic product (GDP). Per capita total expenditure on health is the sum of public and private health expenditure (in purchasing power parity, US$) divided by the population.  Health expenditure includes that for the provision of health services, family planning activities, nutrition activities, and emergency aid designated for health, but excludes the provision of water and sanitation. 
4.     Total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP
5.     Total public social expenditure per head, at current prices and Purchasing Power Parities (PPPs)
6.     Accessed from http://www.marketwatch.com/story/want-more-time-off-move-to-brazil-or-lithuania-2009-10-27 (accessed 4/9/2011).  Total # of available days off, including both public holidays and gov’t-mandated vacation days, assuming an employee has 10 years of service and works five days per week.  Forty-one countries included in the survey.

No comments:

Post a Comment