Americans (including me) don’t know much about other countries

by Andrew Gelman on January 16, 2013 · 6 comments

in Comparative Politics,Media

Jeff Lax sent me to this blog post by Myrddin pointing out that Belgium has a higher murder rate than the rest of Western Europe. I have no particular take on this, but it’s a good reminder that other countries differ from each other. Here in the U.S., we tend to think all western European countries are the same, all eastern European countries are the same, etc. In reality, Sweden is not Finland.

P.S. According to the Wiki, Greenland is one tough town. I guess there’s nothing much to do out there but watch satellite TV, chew the blubber, and kill people.

{ 6 comments }

Tim Bale January 16, 2013 at 4:45 am

Can I just recommend on this ‘The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike’ by Peter Baldwin: does some great (serious but also wild and wacky) comparisons between countries and states. Fun and fascinating book.

yop January 16, 2013 at 5:04 am

I find it odd that according to Wikipedia, Luxembourg has a even higher rate of murder (2.5, compared to 1.8 for Belgium, and 0.8 for Germany).

Are these rates comparable?

Chaz January 16, 2013 at 7:57 am

@yop

Stats on Luxembourg are worthless in just about every category. It’s so tiny that something like a third of the labor force commutes in from other countries. That plus a bunch of banks is why its GDP per capita is so sky-high.

As for murders, Wikipedia has data for one year, and they had 12. That’s not much of a sample. Maybe all the killers were Germans, and all the victims were Belgian. And simultaneously maybe there’s a brutal Luxembourgian gang that kills dozens of Frenchmen every year, but doesn’t do much actually in Luxembourg. No point in speculating.

Jane January 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

There are some similarities with the ways in which the US is viewed in Europe – aggregate ‘American’ outcomes trump individual state successes/failures. There is very little coverage outside the States of the differences between Massachusetts and Mississippi in terms of education or health outcomes for example. This has an impact on attitudes to the validity of policy transfer.

Andreas Moser January 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Don’t worry Americans. You can simply ask me if you have any questions.
But first, I always have to explain where my current place of residence (Lithuania) actually is: andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/where-is-lithuania/

Eannie January 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

The ignorance is stunning.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: