International comparisons, or national evaluation indicators, focuses on the quantitative, qualitative, and evaluative analysis of one country in relation to others. Often, the objective is to compare one country's performance to others in order to assess what countries have achieved, what needs to change in order for them to perform better, or a country's progress in reaching certain objectives.
The data can be as simple as comparing countries' population or gross domestic product (GDP), but these do not evaluate performance. For example, if we'd like to compare the United States' economic productivity to Norway's, we could start by comparing GDP. Norway's GDP is nearly 500 billion U.S. dollars, while the United States' GDP is 15,680 billion dollars. To evaluate fairly, we need to consider population. Norway's GDP per capita is actually larger than the U.S.: $99,558 per person compared to $51,749. Such a metric is a more telling indication for international comparisons which simpler statistics fail to reveal.
Quality of Life/Subjective Well-being Comparisons
Some important evaluations cannot really be quantified, but are based on qualitative measurements, such as "Which country is happiest?" Evaluative analysis, while controversial, can determine subjective well-being to some extent. The United Nations' World Happiness Report and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Better Life Index have both followed in the footsteps of the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Report in their attempts to quantify "happiness." The inevitably large role of money (quantified traditionally as GDP per capita) is generally acknowledged, yet does not explain why “poorer” countries report greater happiness on occasion. Further analysis can indicate other factors boosting the quality of life of a lower income country. The science of happiness evaluation is improving, but also may use very different combinations and weights of evaluative statistics. These differences result from different indicators being used and different weighting among the indicators, based on the values and interests of an organization.
Examples of International Comparisons online
The following alphabetical list of online examples demonstrate how international comparisons work and should work, using many applications of evaluative analysis.
Comprehensive and up-to-date on the indicators it covers, InternationalComparisons.org is focused on comparing the United States with 11 advanced democracies (12 countries in all). Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, are compared with the United States. The site has hundreds of evaluative statistics in multiple pages of categories, shown in tables with links to all sources for every quantitative statistic. Extensive notes and links complement and substantiate the data on every category and page. The site has a simple, consistent interface and format. The purpose of the site is to avoid ideological or simplistic generalizations for and against the various countries, and seeks to provide objective information introducing academics, students, and the media to the issues of comparative evaluation. It does not generate new information, but collects data from OECD, WHO, both referenced below, and a number of other reliable and neutral sources.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Much larger than InternationalComparisons.org, the OECD has the same advanced countries, but also includes 34 additional countries, has a wider scope, and includes many more statistics for the most important websites. The OECD publishes original research as often as on a weekly basis with the objective of affecting change as it strives to achieve its slogan: “Better policies for better lives.” The Better Life Index is the organization's measure for subjective well-being. Because of its size, the OECD statistical database can be complex to navigate until one finds the part one is looking for.
Social Progress Imperative
The Social Progress Imperative released its second version of the Social Progress Index. It is based on four "key design principles": exclusively uses social and environmental indicators (no economic indicators), outcomes not inputs (i.e. health status not health expenditure), actionability (translatable pragmatism), and relevance to all countries (neither exclusively focused on the poorest countries nor the advanced democracies). The Social Progress Index contains 54 indicators categorized within the following three categories: basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The United Nations Development Programme is predominantly focused on low income countries and their advancement, as evidenced in the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals, which strive to eradicate extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, and promote education via sustainable development globally. The UNDP's Human Development Report is the original, authoritative source on subjective well-being and its evaluative analysis since it first challenged GDP/capita as the indicator for quality of life with its first Human Development Index in 1990. The annual Human Development Index is a relevant challenge for over 140 countries regardless of their development stage.
The World Bank aspires to impact development by promoting open data and subsequently transparency, accountability, and democracy as the private sector is emphasized for its role. Its compiled database, the World Development Indicators, contains 18 topics containing hundreds of statistics.
The World Factbook
World Health Organization
With an emphasis on how international comparisons and evaluative analysis can impact world health, the World Health Organization offers the Global Health Observatory, a data site on various diseases, mortality rates, and other variables such as gender, class, and technology. Its contains over 50 datasets for as many as 194 countries.
A Survey of Data Sites and Subjects Covered
In order to observe which subjects the above data sites cover, the following tables are provided. For simplicity, the field is marked "none" if the site does not cover the subject at all, "primary" if the site covers the subject with original research or collects the research itself from individual national institutions, and "secondary" if the site covers the subject with derivative research (often from another source in the same table) or if it uses a combination of original and derivative research. Please note that this is what each data site of the above sources contain. It could be that the source covers the subject in another medium or report.
|CIA World Factbook||none||secondary||secondary||secondary||none|
|Social Progress Index||none||none||none||none||none|
|UNDP Human Development Report Data||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||none|
|World Bank's World Development Indicators||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary|
|WHO's Global Health Observatory||none||none||secondary||primary||secondary|
|Alternative energy sources||Environmental performance||Greenhouse gases||Transportation|
|CIA World Factbook||none||none||none||none|
|Social Progress Index||none||secondary||secondary||none|
|UNDP Human Development Report Data||secondary||secondary||secondary||none|
|World Bank's World Development Indicators||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary|
|WHO's Global Health Observatory||none||primary||primary||none|
|Aid||Military||Rule of Law||Treaties||Voting|
|CIA World Factbook||none||secondary||none||none||none|
|Social Progress Index||none||none||secondary||none||none|
|UNDP Human Development Report Data||none||none||none||none||secondary|
|World Bank's World Development Indicators||secondary||secondary||none||none||secondary|
|WHO's Global Health Observatory||none||none||none||secondary||none|
|Child welfare||Crime||Education||Income distribution||Gender Equality||Health care||Health status||Population||Sexual health||Social justice||Teen pregnancy||Well-being|
|CIA World Factbook||secondary||none||secondary||secondary||none||none||secondary||secondary||secondary||none||none||none|
|Social Progress Index||secondary||secondary||secondary||none||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||none||secondary|
|UNDP Human Development Report Data||secondary||none||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||primary||secondary||secondary||none||primary|
|World Bank's World Development Indicators||secondary||none||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||secondary||none|
|WHO's Global Health Observatory||primary||none||secondary||primary||primary||primary||primary||primary||primary||primary||primary||primary|
- "International Comparison Program". OECD. 25 March 2005. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- "GDP (current US$)". World Bank. 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- "GDP per capita (current US$)". World Bank. 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2013). "World Happiness Report 2013". Archived from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "OECD Guidelines to Measuring Subjective Well-Being" (PDF). Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2013. pp. 140–149. doi:10.1787/9789264191655-en.
- "World Happiness Report 2013" (PDF). United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 2013. pp. 139–151. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- Lewis, Sherman; Dustyn Bindel (2014). "InternationalComparisons.org" (web). Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- "OECD.StatExtracts". OECD. 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "OECD Statistics". Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD. 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- "Social Progress Imperative". Social Progress Imperative. 2014. Archived from the original (web) on 2015-05-01. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
- "Millennium Goals Background". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "World Happiness Report 2013" (PDF). United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 2013. p. 140. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Human Development Report 1990". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Prasanna Lal Das; Alla Morrison (8 January 2014). "From open data to development impact – the crucial role of the private sector". Open Data. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "World Development Indicators Databank" (web). World Bank. 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- "The World Factbook" (web). Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency. 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- "Global Health Observatory". World Health Organization. 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- "Social Progress Index". Social Progress Imperative. 2014. Archived from the original (web) on 17 December 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
- "Human Development Reports: Data" (web). United Nations Development Programme. 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2014.