The Country Similarity Index has been revised to reflex feedback received on this project. The goal is to more closely align with people’s intuitions. Certain aspects of the index have been given more weight, while other aspects have been added and others have been deleted. Still, these changes in most cases should not greatly affect the outcome of which countries are most and least similar to other countries. The maps and articles will be updated to the new version periodically.
Demographics: More weight has been given to race, language family, and religious origin, which are more obvious differences. Since variance of height, weight, and gender ratio between countries are less perceivable than other aspects, they have been given less weight. Household size was removed since it highly correlates with the number of children in a family. Population above 65 years old took its place to act as the other end of the age extreme from children.
Culture: This section had the most changes. The language portion of culture was given a much greater weight than in the previous version. This was consistently the biggest complaint from feedback received. Before, the native language of the people was not accounted for in the culture section, only in demographics, which was a big mistake. In addition, the official language of the country is given a greater weight, but the language family of the official language is no longer considered. Previously this had been making countries like Bolivia and Congo more similar than reality, since the fact that their official languages are part of the same language family as less to do with culture than if their native languages were part of the same language family. This change also helps countries like Canada be more like other countries that have French as their official language, even though a relatively low percentage of the people speak it there. Marriage and divorce rates were moved to the culture section from the demographic section, although they could have been placed in either. The sports section was reworked to give less weight to the sporting success of countries and more weight on the sports they are interested in, since sporting success is highly correlated with economics. Diet is also highly correlated with economics. The previous version compared amounts of food, which is not necessarily cultural. More emphasis was given on the kinds of meat, fruits, vegetables, and staple foods eaten, not the amount. Finally, the writing script was given a slightly greater weight. Charitable activity, coffee consumption, and tea consumption needed to be removed to make way for greater emphasis on language.
Politics: This section did not change a lot, but there were a few minor improvements. The amount of democracy was given a slightly greater weight. The head of state type was integrated into the executive type, to give the form of government less weight. Gambling, paid leave laws, and the right to abode were added. Immigration rate, which does not have a huge amount to do with politics, was removed.
Technology: This section also did not change a lot, but there were a few minor improvements. Container port traffic was added to create a greater difference between landlocked countries and countries with large seaports. The data on police officers per capita is not necessarily comparable between countries, so it was removed in favor of military per capita, which seems like a better choice anyway. Statistics on radio broadcasting was removed since there is not a massive difference between countries. Favorite websites was also reluctantly removed. A slightly greater weight was given to countries using the same power grid with the same frequency.
Geography: Previously, two countries with geographies that are vastly different could look more similar than in reality if they both did not have a lot of agricultural land, for instance Solomon Islands and Saudi Arabia. The same goes for countries that do not have a lot of forested land, like Bangladesh and Argentina. They are quite different, but if you only look at this aspect, they are similar. Instead of looking at farmland percentage and forested percentage individually, it is better to look at their land cover mix. The absence of something should not always imply they are similar. In addition, urbanization, air pollution, and light pollution were removed, while the weighting on population density was increased.
Do you agree with the changes?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.