FACTS AND FIGURES….The Economist just sent me the 2003 pocket edition of World in Figures, presumably because I renewed my subscription last month. I just love this kind of stuff. Here are some highlights:

  • Lebanon has the highest car ownership: 732 per thousand people. The United States is 12th, at 481 cars per thousand people. We’ve got some serious catching up to do, folks.

  • Japan has the highest median age in the world: 41.2. In 2020 Switzerland will be on top, with a median age of 48.9. Wow ? 48.9.

  • The highest quality of life in any major city is allegedly to be found in Zurich, which I find hard to believe unless clean and dull are your main criteria. Of the top 14 cities, only one is in North America: Vancouver.

  • The lowest teenage birthrate in the world is in North Korea. I wonder how they collected that data?

  • Even after a decade of recession in Japan and a decade of boom times in America, Japan’s per capita GDP is still higher than ours: $38,160 vs. $34,940.

  • On the other hand, in terms of per capita purchasing power, the United States is way ahead of everyone except Luxembourg.

  • What’s the deal with Luxembourg, anyway? Why are they so rich?

  • The United States is only the 8th largest consumer of tea, but we are by far the largest consumers of both coffee and cocoa. I feel a surge of pride in our cocoa consuming abilities.

  • In the “innovation index,” we come in second to Canada. Canadians are more creative than us!

  • The country least likely to pay bribes is Australia. Who knew the Aussies were so honest?

  • The lowest marriage rate in the world is in Ireland: 2.1 per thousand. Why aren’t the Irish getting married? (The only other western European country that even makes the list is Belgium.)

  • The highest divorce rate is in the United States.

  • Finland is the least corrupt country in the world. Good for them. The United States is tied for 16th with Israel.

  • Saudi Arabia has the biggest households: 7.6 people per dwelling. Sweden is lowest at 2.0. (The United States clocks in at 2.5.)

  • The lowest cost of living in the world is in Iran. Make it your retirement home! The lowest cost of living in an English-speaking country is in New Zealand, which also has lots of sheep and many beautiful fjords. That might be a better bet, actually.

  • Canada has more VCRs per household than us. So does Denmark. Hmmm….

  • The United States has 97 million internet hosts. Japan is second with 7 million, and Canada is third with 3 million. We seem to have a sizable lead.

  • We lead in every Nobel Prize category except Literature. France has 14 NobLit prizes compared to our 12.

UPDATE: Regarding Canadian creativity, reader Stan Jones points out that the retractable beer-carton handle was invented by a Canadian. Enough said.

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