Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Surprising Fact of the Day

. Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From the Freakonomics blog, via Will Wilkinson:

Who spends more on social welfare: the U.S. or Sweden and other Nordic countries? Nearly everybody will say Sweden. But the answer, at least as of the mid-2000s, might surprise you. It depends heavily on how you deal with taxation, unfunded mandates, and whether you discuss spending as a share of the country’s output or in absolute dollars. ...

People’s perceptions are driven by the standard statistic reported in the news and in the OECD database: gross public social welfare spending as a percentage of GDP. In 2003, Sweden spent 37 percent relative to GDP, Denmark 32 percent, Norway 28 percent, Finland 26 percent, and the U.S. lagged behind at 17 percent. ...

If we take into account these differences in style [ed.: not quoted here, but described in the link above], the appropriate measure is net public and private social welfare expenditures per capita. By this metric, the U.S. then leads the way at $7,800, followed by Sweden at $6,700, Norway at $6,300, Denmark at $5,800, and Finland at $4,900.


I await the inevitable rebuttals, but this is did surprise me quite a bit.

UPDATE: Here's the inevitable rebuttal.

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Surprising Fact of the Day
 
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