Our Economy in Perspective

One of my favorite bloggers is Mark J. Perry of AEI and the University of Michigan. Check out his economics blog Carpe Diem yourself and see if you agree. His June 6 post included this map that presents world GDP data in a unique and more relatable fashion.


He has two major point to make. First, this provides a clever visualization for how our gigantic GDP totally dwarfs most of the rest of the world, by labeling each state with the country having approximately the same GDP in 2015. The GDP matches are not perfect of course, but they are usually well within 10%. The second point, not directly shown, is that invariably our states achieve their results with many, many fewer workers. The U.S. economic engine is receiving mostly bad reviews in our current political season. However, while it is far from perfect, I think few residents of these states would prefer the quality of life in their world counterparts.

I am reproducing the map here because I wanted to relate a few of my reactions, which range from surprise to amusement to outright astonishment. Some items jump out. Texans are justly proud of their state, perhaps a bit too much for the rest of us, but to rank equal to Canada is amazing. Maybe the chatter about breaking off and resuming independence isn’t so crazy after all! Even proud New Yorkers might be surprised to find that their GDP slightly outranks South Korea, with its plethora of technology companies whose products we see everywhere in our homes and on our streets. As to my home state, California, its massive GDP is really no surprise. Still, to rank slightly higher that the EU powerhouse, France, is a bit eyeopening.

Our rust belt states are seen as faint images of their past glory, mostly characterized by economic decline, population loss, and urban decay. Yet Ohio’s GDP still is similar to Switzerland’s, Illinois outranks The Netherlands, and Pennsylvania’s GDP is only slightly less than the growing and vibrant Turkey. This perspective makes these states seem more economically sound, doesn’t it? And New Jersey almost equaling the petroleum giant, Saudi Arabia, is astounding, although the recent decline in oil prices no doubt played a role.

Old line Massachusetts has few resources other than its well-educated people and many of its manufacturing jobs have migrated overseas. Nevertheless it ranks with Nigeria, known as “the Giant of Africa” due to its enormous population and an economy that now ranks first on the continent.

Further down the economic ladder, other comparisons probably say as much about the ancient countries of the world as it does about the economies of our states. Colorado and Egypt make an odd pair, as does Missouri and Denmark, Iowa and Greece, and the District of Columbia and Hungary. On the other hand it seems quite appropriate that Minnesota is paired with Norway. Do you think their Scandinavian roots may have contributed to comparable economies? Similarly, the island economies of Hawaii and Sri Lanka seem natural partners.

A few pairings are just amusing. Surely Kentuckians might have expected to outrank their partner, Bangladesh. And enormous but sparsely populated Montana is performing similarly to the world’s gambling mecca, the tiny enclave of Macau. While The Oriental Republic of Uruguay and Sarah Palin’s Alaska strike me as the comedy duo of this report.

I am sure that other pairings will strike your interest and amusement. Enjoy!