The Prosperity Index uses 89 factors to determine the wealthiest countries on Earth (in terms beyond just pure money). Here are the top 10.

Where's the U.S? This graphic explains why we're falling (click to enlarge).

Here are some of the more specific category rankings from the Prosperity Index. These are the top 10 by economy.

Top 10 by entrepreneurship.

Top 10 by governance.

Top 10 by education.

Top 10 by health.

Top 10 by safety.

Top 10 by personal freedom.

Top 10 by social capital.

2013-11-05

These 10 Countries Are The Most Prosperous In The World, And They Don’t Include The U.S.

Will we be left out of the "new economic world order"?

If you were to look at one measure of a country’s economic health, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone leaves out plenty of the factors that make a country a pleasant--or prosperous--place to live. That’s why, in the depths of a global recession five years ago, the Legatum Institute, a U.K. nonprofit thinktank, made a list of 89 factors to measure a country’s prosperity. Last week, the Institute put out its Prosperity Index rankings for 2013, but the United States didn’t make the highlights.

Instead, the top 10 most prosperous countries rankings yielded the usual cast of Scandinavian characters that tend to show up in happiness polls. Norway, for the fifth year in a row, took first prize for most prosperous country in the world.

“Sometimes, when you think of Norway, you think big government, high taxes, and a welfare state, but the prosperity index points to a different picture,” said Nathan Gamester, program director of Legatum’s prosperity index. “It has a very dynamic economy that’s good for entrepreneurs, with low costs for business startups. It also has very close communities with high levels of trust,” he said.

Legatum uses 89 variables to measure a country’s prosperity, spread across eight categories: Economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom, and social capital. Two of the main drivers of prosperity, however, usually include the quality of governance and the extent to which entrepreneurship thrives, said Gamester.

The United States came in 11th place overall, but other economic indicators showed a steeper stumble over the last five years. In 2012, if you were only looking at the economy category, the U.S. still ranked within the top 20 healthiest countries. In 2013, the U.S. has dropped to 24th place.

Here's an explanation for why the U.S. is falling. Click to enlarge.

Upon closer examination, the decline can be explained by things like a decrease in domestic savings rates, in addition to more qualitative measures, like a decrease in satisfaction with the financial system and basic satisfaction with food and shelter.

Another key finding of the report was the meteoric rise of countries like Bangladesh, as well as the growing prosperity of sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, Legatum put together a 20 countries “to watch” list, several of which Gamester sees as making up a “new economic world order.”

Three European countries--Germany, Sweden, and Slovakia--also made that list. And while there’s no conclusive proof that their labor practices are the reason why, it’s probably worth noting that each has a rather different approach to the workweek compared to the United States. In Slovenia, law mandates a maximum 40-hour workweek, while German employees average a 35-hour workweek. Swedes, meanwhile, work 143 fewer hours than Americans per year.

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18 Comments

  • Clark Magnuson

    My relatives are immigrating from Sweden to the US for economic opportunity. We have been doing it for 110 years.

  • F. Baum

    Notice how the weather sucks in most of the countries, other than Australia/New Zealand. Just sayin'.

  • putesputes

    Guess what... the top 8 are totally depended on natural resources for their wealth. That's right. Oil and wood. Canada also beats the U.S. on pollution. So I guess the lesson for the U.S. is to reform the environmental protection agency and give it a two mission mandate. Protect the environment without destroying jobs. The rest are depending on banking. Well you know the political points this administrations is trying to score with banks.

  • Hitro

    NZ is not dependant on natural resources, actually. It's almost impossible to mine anything without people getting up in arms. Sustainable farming and tourism make up the bulk of what goes on. And besides, this isn't to do with wealth anyway. It's to do with prosperity, which is different.

  • Pedro Borgos

    Fact is they're linked together. Why would anyone want to be prosperous & poor?..prosperity is success which in turn and inevitably leads to wealth (at least in terms of what the article is trying to relay).

  • Almondsfast

    "Will we be left out of the "new economic world order"?" - No, only your middle class and below have and will be.

  • Jay Jay Deng

    How can anyone take this seriously when Singapore isn't even in the top 10? It has a superior healthcare system, great business ecosystem and education system compared to that of Canada or even Norway.

  • calgjay

    To move to Canada, you basically just show up with some money and no criminal record. Surprised more Americans don't move here if things are so bad down south. Probably a good thing as our housing prices are already too high.

  • Powpow Deeton

    NOBODY WANTS THE U.S.???? TELL THAT TO THE IMMIGRANTS WHO COME HERE CANNOT SPEAK ENGLISH EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE LIVED HERE FOR SO MANY YEARS!!!!!!!!

  • dm2010bl

    Population plays a huge role and in some ways it is not realistic to compare huge and tiny countries. One other factor is that most of the top ten richest countries belong to the EU and benefit from a huge 500 million common market that is effectively a home market (despite very little political integration in the EU for now). If most of these countries were completely and really independent they would have to be blessed with Norway's oil reserves to make it to the top.

  • Seamus

    Awesome info...now can you write an article on how a US citizen can leave the US and go live and work in any of those countries, and, alas, become a citizen? It's practically impossible...

  • Hitro

    No it's not mate - we'll take you down in New Zealand. Just bring some beers and laugh at our jokes and you'll be sweet as.