It’s fashionable for Americans to feel their country is falling apart and equally trendy for non-Americans to be kind of happy about it. But before feeding into the frenzy, it’s always worth looking at a few numbers. With that in mind, here are 10 stats about America (in 10 different arenas), all of which might surprise you.
In a country that’s obsessed with firearms, 68% of American adults do not own a gun.
While income inequality is a concern, only eight countries have a higher nominal GDP per capita than the US. Those eight countries combined have a population that is 8.6% the size of the American population.
A few stats about America won’t undo centuries of racism, so take this one with a huge grain of salt. In the US House of Representatives, 13% of members are Black, essentially exactly in line with the percentage of Americans who fall into that category.
As of 2017, the rate of abortions in the US was 13.5 per 1,000 women (age 15-44), lower than the rate in 1973 when Roe v. Wade made abortion legal at the federal level.
Fine, no surprises here. The US pollutes with the best of them, both in absolute terms and on a per-capita basis. But just so we don’t beat ourselves up too much, per 2019 data, several Middle Eastern countries emit more metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita than the US, as do Canada, Luxembourg, and Australia.
The underperformance of American students relative to the rest of the world has been a cause for concern. On the other hand, one survey-based study of the best educational systems—taking into account public education and the quality of universities—ranked the US number one.
Americans get a bad rap for knowing little about what goes on outside their own borders. It turns out, however, that 71% of American adults have traveled abroad.
Yes, the healthcare system needs some work, and yes, Americans are a bit chunky. In fact, per 2016 data, something like 67.9% of Americans are overweight or obese, as defined by a body mass index (BMI) of greater than or equal to 25. But surprisingly, the US is only 15th in this regard, being outdone by Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan! And don’t think the wannabe perfect countries are much better—places like New Zealand (65.6%), Australia (64.5%), Canada (64.1%), and the United Kingdom (63.7%).
It’s no fun watching prices go up. Thankfully, the 7.7% inflation rate in the US (as of October 2022) placed it at just 112 of 184 entities studied. Leading the pack was Zimbabwe at 269%, and many Western European nations were posting impressive double-digit figures—the likes of the Netherlands (14.3%), Belgium (12.3%), the United Kingdom (11.1%), Austria (11%), Sweden (10.9%), Germany (10.4%), and Denmark (10.1%).
The US has a crime problem. So does the rest of the world. The overall crime rate in the land of the free is 47.81 crimes per 100,000 people, which is nothing to be proud of. Neither is Sweden’s 48 nor France’s 51.99.
What’s the point? As these stats about America show, what’s often depicted as a sinking ship is sailing just fine. But, of course, there’s always room for improvement. So let’s get back to bickering.