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Meridians: The Country Mediocrity Index

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

As many countries and territories as possible, 203 in total, are ranked according to area, population and GDP per capita (nominal). Then these three rankings taken together are normalised into an index that shows how close to the average is any country.

This means that a country has to be very large, populous and rich, or on the contrary, very small, poor and with a small population to score high on this index. The more so, the higher. So for once, we've got an index where Kiribati, apparently the 5th less mediocre country in the world, stands proudly between China and Russia, and Micronesia stands just as tall as France and Brazil.

So, which is the least average country in the world? Depending on where you are, you might roll your eyes or raise the flag: with a score of 94.3 out of 100, ladies and gentlemen, I present you the United States of America. The US is the fourth largest country on Earth, the third most populous, and the 10th overall on GDP per capita, which is quite impressive considering its large population. This means that it stands quite apart from the rest, at the highest distance from the second place between any two countries in this index.

The second and third places are occupied by Canada and Australia, respectively, both among the largest, richest, but also the most sparsely populated countries out there. Tied with Australia is China, the third largest country, only relatively rich (ranked 68th) but with a huge population.

Just behind China, there's none other than Kiribati. Ranking 179th on area, 184th on population and 163rd on GDP per capita, it proudly takes the 5th place, just above Russia, which is 21,000 times larger.

How about the most average, you ask? On the bottom of the list (or the top, depending on how you see it) we've got Syria. Ranking 89th in area, 66th in population and 145th in GDP per capita, therefore with an average rank of 100, it is a perfectly mediocre country, scoring zero points. Madagascar and Azerbaijan come close, with 0.3 points.

Below we have the countries of the world divided into quintiles according to this Mediocrity Index. There's a sea of blue, as the largest countries are, of course, among the least average. We also have the usual suspects in Western Europe, which stand out as small, well populated, and rich countries. The Scandinavian countries, for once, have been downgraded, due to their relatively larger size.



Following the well established tradition to exclude the mini states from rankings, because they are so small they confuse our neat statistics, I have made a version of this index only with countries and territories larger than 10,000 sq km (3,900 sq mi). The situation changes, but not that much.

Not having the likes of Kiribati to compete for its place (in fact, the likes of Monaco and Liechtenstein for GDP per capita), the score of the US climbs to 99.4. The contender is none other than Gambia (85.2), above Canada (83.4) and China (82.1). The most average country under this scenario is Ghana (0.4), followed by Denmark (1.3).


See more from the Meridians series


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