Lifestyle & Culture

Deutschland über alles: Europe takes 11 of top 20 spots on USN&WR’s 2016 list of best countries

We went into this Dispatches expat-focused project convinced Europe will be where the action is for the next 20 years based on educational focus, tech innovation and quality of life.

Yesterday, U.S. News & World Report, the magazine that has built its entire business on ranking U.S. colleges using empirical data, confirmed our intuition.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.32.17 PMUSN&WR released its 2016 Best Countries list, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that while Germany may take the top spot, it’s Western Europe as a whole that wins. Without further ado, the No. 1 country atop the list is Germany for its entrepreneurial boldness and overall dynamic economy. But what’s really enlightening is how many European countries are at the top of the list. European nations take six of the Top 10 spots, and 11 of the Top 20.

Here are the Top 10 in order:

1- Germany

2 – Canada

3 – Great Britain

4 – United States

5 – Sweden

6 – Australia

7 – Japan

8 – France

9 – Netherlands

10 – Denmark

European countries making the next 10 are Austria at No. 12, Italy at No. 13, Luxembourg at No. 14, Spain at No. 16 and Ireland at No. 18.

This USN&WR list – released early this morning European Time – is one you’ll want to spend a lot of time with because of all the extras, including interactive data explorers. Also, it’s a year-long compendium of stories, a continuing process of comparing nations’ progress. Using data-driven weighted analysis, the countries are ranked in nine categories: adventure, citizenship, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, heritage, movers, open for business, power and quality of life. What made it interesting for us is, the countries we thought would dominate each category don’t. We don’t want to ruin it for you, but the country you think will be No. 1 in entrepreneurship isn’t. That, and as we said, European countries do really, really well at a time when too many U.S. publications are busy writing obituaries for the continent.

As a bonus, there are multiple, incredibly useful “best of” lists, including best countries to invest, best countries to headquarter a corporation and best countries for Green living.

That’s all we’re saying because you really will want to savor this thoughtful project.

Well, that and there are a few stunning takeaways including how the United States’ economy dwarfs the rest, with an $18 trillion annual gross domestic product. All the European countries in the Top 10 combined only total about $10 trillion in collective GDPs.

The U.S. News & World Report methodology is complex, so this isn’t one of those “10 animals that are Ninjas” lists from BuzzFeed.

As Brian Kelly, USN&WR editor and chief content officer, states in the video introduction, the project is a partnership with WPP, the London-based marketing communications firm and Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. So this isn’t a beauty contest or a Vanity Fair ranking of Hollywood’s most influential. This is a well-crafted, data-driven project with interactive features and video.

A little about why this isn’t just another listicle: We read the explanation of methodology, and it made our head hurt, with lots of jargon about metrics and subrankings. So it must be legit.

Here’s a tiny sample:

To determine the weight each subranking score had in the overall Best Countries score, each was correlated to 2014 gross domestic product purchasing power parity per capita, a measure of inclusive prosperity, as reported by the International Monetary Fund. More prevalent relationships that demonstrated an interconnectedness with the wealth metric were weighted more.  

Got it … wait, what?

From what we could deduce, each country’s place on the list is determined using a set of 65 attributes that define a successful nation. Each country was scored on each of the 65 country attributes based on a collection of individual survey responses, according to the USN&WR website.

From the methodology section:

The more a country was perceived to exemplify a certain characteristic in relation to the average, the higher that country’s attribute score and vice versa. These scores were normalized to account for outliers and transformed into a scale that could be compared across the board.

Attributes were grouped into those nine subrankings: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power and Quality of Life.

We’ll have more in a follow-up post about all the media attention Europe seems to be getting, including the new Forbes list of the 30 most influential Europeans under 30, which was also released Tuesday.

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