Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. For example, one might intuitively know that Germany is more like the United States than Iran but less like the United States than Canada. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. The index weights equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, technology, and geography. The research combines 1,000 different data points. Each aspect was roughly balanced evenly between quantity/percentage and quality/type. Please see the above YouTube video for a quick overview. The following paragraphs explain the exact criteria for the index more in depth:
Individuals & their personal characteristics
- Appearance: Gender, Age, Height, and Weight
- Ancestry: Race and Genetics
- Ethnicity: Native Language and Religious Background
- Family: Marriage and Children
- Occupation: Education and Employment
- Affluence: Income and Wealth
Society & its common activities
- Behavior: Personality, Conduct, Violence, and Drug Use
- Communication: Lingua Franca and Writing System
- Traditions: Religious Practices and Customary Rituals
- Recreation: Team and Olympic Sports
- Beverages: Coffee, Tea, and Alcohol
- Food: Meat, Dairy, Fruits, Vegetables, and Starches
Government & its adopted policies
- Management: Leadership of the government and methods of their election
- Restrictions: Marriage Regulations, Obscenity Laws, Reproductive Rights, Gun Control, and Narcotic Prohibition
- Entitlements: Health Care, Education, Welfare, Pension, and Citizenship Rights
- Requirements: Military Conscription, Jury Duty, Compulsory Education, Mandatory Voting, and Tax Obligation
- Enforcement: Authoritarianism, Censorship, Rule of Law, Legal System, and Punishment
- Cooperation: Common Currency, Trade Blocs, Defense Alliances, Border Control, and Immigration Policy
Infrastructure & its essential equipment
- Hydration: Water Usage, Water Quality, and Waste Sewerage
- Electrification: Energy Usage, Electricity Type, and Power Outlets
- Communication: Radio, Telephone, Television, and Internet
- Transportation: Cars, Trains, and Airplanes
- Medication: Doctors and Hospital Infrastructure
- Protection: Police and Military Sophistication
Environment & its physical features
- Location: Longitude, Latitude, Landmass, and Hydrologic Region
- Terrain: Mountains and Water
- Climate: Temperature and Precipitation
- Vegetation: Wilderness and Agriculture
- Habitation: Animals and People
- Anthropization: Built Environment and Pollution
Out of the countries studied so far, the index predicts around 90% of the time, which country people believe to be the most similar to another according to polling on this site. The index weighting may be adjusted slightly in the future to reflect the feedback.
Obviously there is no one clear way to determine how similar one country is to another. How would you quantify how similar one country is to another?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.
List of all countries studied:
- If a characteristic was nearly universal, then it was not included in the calculation. For example, only the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar have not adopted the metric system. Therefore this characteristic was not used since it would not make a difference for a vast majority of comparisons.
- Similarly, if a characteristic is almost never shared between countries, then it was not included in the calculation as well. For example, only Cyprus and Greece share the same exact national anthem. In addition, only a handful of countries share the same anthem melody. Therefore this characteristic was not used since it would not make a difference for a vast majority of comparisons.
- Some characteristics are difficult to quantify or hard to find statistics for. For example, art and architecture would have been included into the index if there were relevant statistics readily available. However, since over 100 individual statistics were used, adding in more would not significantly change the overall score for a country. In addition, many statistics highly correlate with one another.
- Only countries and territories with a population of more than 500,000 people or more than 2,000 sq. kilometers were considered. No country or territory with less than 50,000 people were considered.
- The index has been slightly revised since it was first created in response to feedback. Language, writing system, and ancestry have been given a heavier weight than in the first iteration. However, these maps should not be construed to be language maps. Countries as various as the United States, Nigeria, Philippines, India, and South Africa all have English as one of their lingua francas, but they are quite different countries in many other aspects.