Is Sweden an economically overrated country?

In addition to my earlier pick of Chile, I now must nominate Sweden and Norway for this honor.  Both are wonderful countries, and in absolute terms very likely to remain strong performers.  But I think a good deal of that old Nordic magic is slipping away, and this has become more evident in the last few years.

Let’s start with Sweden and maybe I’ll get to Norway another time:

1. The average product of their education system seems to have declined rather rapidly, as measured by test scores.  On PISA they have gone from #4 to #21.

2. Arguably the basic Swedish economic social model is inconsistent with their level of immigration, and I don’t see them switching to a different economic and social model anytime soon.  You can be pro-immigration, and still not think Sweden is honing in on the right mix of domestic policy and immigration policy.

3. Swedish manufacturing seems to be deindustrializing at a faster than expected pace.  And some of Sweden’s most successful sectors are exposed to a lot of competition from emerging markets, in particular because they rely heavily on engineering talent.  Sweden also has a significant presence in financial services, but they are not an obvious future winner in that area.  And do timber, hydropower, and iron — their main commodity exports — have such a promising future?  There are probably few disasters lurking here, but lots of question marks.

4. Sweden doesn’t seem to have a lot of low-hanging fruit left.  Female participation in the labor force already is high, and they already have done lots of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation.  It is not clear where the next generation of policy improvements will come from.  The McKinsey report recommends “increasing government productivity” as a major source of potential gains, but that is hardly easy, even for the Swedes.

5. The Swedish central bank seems to have scored an “own goal” by engaging in premature tightening, coming out of the earlier recession.  They’ll make much of that up over time, but still it is a sign the country has lost some mojo.

6. Sweden’s household to debt ratio is about 170%, one of the highest in the world.  This is not only troubling in its own right, but arguably it is a sign debt is being used to make up for a slow accumulation of underlying economic deficiencies, as was the case in the United States.  Furthermore “Four in 10 mortgage borrowers in Sweden are not paying off their debt, according to data collected by Reuters, and those that are repaying the principal are doing so at a rate that would on average take nearly a century.”  They are probably still in the middle of a housing bubble.

7. There is an erosion of support for mainstream Swedish political parties.  You don’t have to approve of those parties to see this as a symptom of a very slight underlying political rot setting in.  The “extreme Right” party has seen a rapid rise in support.

8. A rampaging Putin probably won’t harm them directly, but still recent Russian events raise geopolitical risk in their neighborhood.

Don’t worry, the Swedes will do fine, but they have arrived at officially overrated status.  I was more sanguine about their prospects a few years ago than I am today and I would not invest in their stock market.  If you wish to count their pluses however, they still have a very good system of government, a strong ethic of trust and cooperation, a good ability to change course when necessary, high productivity, a strong presence in information technology, a wonderful export capacity, low public debt, and first-rate proficiency in English, among other virtues.

That all said, the Swedish currency is actually down against the euro since the beginning of the year.


I think Denmark is not better than neither Sweden nor Norway, however there are dark clouds over Swedish economy and society. Their migration policy is becoming a political headache and has the potential to become a fiscal burden, their industrial prowess will be harmed by worsening education system and like you noted, their main exports don’t look like the new iPhone...

"1. The average product of their education system seems to have declined rather rapidly ... with their level of immigration ...": any relation do you suppose?

Of course, you can bugger up a fine school system without a huge flow of third worlders - see the damage wrought by the Forces of Progress on the British schools from the late sixties onwards.

Did they break the PISA scores out by race? Are there enough immigrant school age children to even cause that big a drop?

The PISA drop is more systematic and not due (at least in any large part) to immigrant children. First gen immigrant children would be represented in the lower deciles here.

It's not broken down by race, but yes I would tend to agree with your assumption.

What's most striking is how much lower the Top Decile is for Sweden and notice it's also low for Norway as well as Turkey, Greece & Chile. And also interesting is the fact that Sweden's lowest decile isn't much below the OECD average.

It does appear as if the cause might be systematic to the entire school age population, but primarily affecting the richest students.

About 25% of the decline in Sweden's PISA scores 2000-2012 in for example Reading was the static effect of a higher share of foreign origin pupils and a wider result gap.

"...arguably it is a sign debt is being used to make up for a slow accumulation of underlying economic deficiencies, as was the case in the United States."

Can we quantify this? The contribution of household debt to GDP growth?

Someone please correct me if I am inaccurate.. I would think that net changes in debt in any sector (gov, bus, house) would be part of the aggregate demand and thus contribute to GDP. E.g. if household debt increased by 5% of GDP in a year (gov't and bus flat) then all other things equal, 5% of that year's GDP would be due to demand enabled by that debt change.

*was* the case in the US?

Tyler, is there evidence to show this trend has reversed going forward?

I realize the US savings rate briefly increased during the recession, but my impression is that this was due to unavailability of credit, and that since then household debt renewed its its upward trajectory. Is that not the case?

Canada too is steadily slipping down the PISA rankings. With kids who have attended school there and now in Singapore I see enormous differences in standards, with the Canadian curriculum veering sharply away from academic rigor and into social values, or should I say social engineering.

My son's grade 7 math curriculum here is almost identical to the grade 10 curriculum in BC.

Canada and Sweden are slipping into the somnolence of developed countries that have forgotten how they became developed. The only difference is that Canada is kept awake by ambitious and secular immigrants from Asia while Sweden relies heavily on an immigrant profile that is primarily.

... primarily religious.

Well on the Swedish immigration profile I would say it is more heavily tilted towards "countries were the US fights wars to spread "freedom" and "democracy"". Swedish immigration streams is a good history book of US (and allies) disruption of peace, Vietnam, Iraq, Jugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq (again), Syria.

As far as my memory goes, it was Yugoslavs who started to kill each other with great vehemence. The same is true for most other countries, including Vietnam in the early 1960's.

Totally. Or, as that bully in my school used to say: "Stop hitting yourself!"

Did you fail to read the post he was responding to? The fact that they were engaged in civil war is pretty damned relevant when the first person claimed the US broke up "peace"

But it's all good, right? Because those smart, hardworking immigrants are propelling the Swedish economy to new heights. You're welcome.

Yeah, that is so through.

We all remember how peaceful it was in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Vietnam and Syria. But then out of nowwhere the crazy americans just started bombing to spread "freedom".

It is almost like there were no refugees or immigrants from Iraq before president Bush. The same for Afghanistan, that beautiful country.

BTW - the rest of the muslim world also sends a lot of immigrants to the west, e.g. Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco. I guess the CIA og Mossad are to blame.

"more heavily tilted towards “countries were the US fights wars to spread “freedom” and “democracy””."

The 5 largest groups of immigrants to Sweden are 1) Finland, 2) Iraqi 3) Poland 4) Yugoslavia & 5) Iran

So, your thesis doesn't match the data very well.

these are leftist political truth Sweden will often be missing in action when barbarity occurs on an international scale and made little effort to liberate Europe in WWII. Now their international efforts to be 'humane' and perhaps internationally relevant include an unsustainable immigration policy that is generating societal segregation and religious intolerance. The swedes have a lot to learn about integration; how to play for the same team and so on....wh knows the US may one day have to help us out!

Yet, no Westerner wants to live in the shiny dictatorship island of Singapore, preferring social and self-expressive republics and constitutional monarchies. They may be happy that a Singapore exists, but also happy that they need not live there.

I wonder what you mean by "social engineering" in Canadian schools. Any specific examples? Given what I know about Singapore, I would expect school there to include more social engineering-type things.

This SG Ministry of Educcation curriculum chart is informative.

"The inner circle centring on life skills ensures that students acquire sound values and skills to take them through life as responsible adults and active citizens. It comprises the non-academic curriculum." What kind of "values" are they teaching? Is it social engineering?

Sorry, comment was in response to Chip.

and what JAMRC is to pretending to favor open borders.

Singapore schools mostly leave the social values to the parents. They get admirably no-holds barred sex-ed - my son apparently almost fainted during one class - but they don't stray too far from emphasizing basic traits such as personal responsibility, hard work and the rest.

For an example of what's happening in Canada, the education curriculum in BC is including lessons on racism and gender in every class subject, including maths and science. It permeates the curriculum at the same time that the teachers union wages war on standardized testing. This watered down curriculum is occurring despite a petition from university math profs complaining about the rapidly declining math standards of first year students.

The PISA performances reflect their concerns.

They teach about racism in math class? Whoa, if true.

Given that many Singapore apartment adverts brazenly declare "ethnic group X need not apply", I think perhaps some of those lessons on racism might be useful. It is probably true that they teach many core subjects more effectively, and that should be emulated elsewhere.

Singapore has always struck me as a place like Japan, lots of beauty and efficiency on the surface but some really bizarre or undesirable stuff inside. I've never been to a country where the taxi drivers hate their country so much (and are proud to share these feelings)

Singapore schools mostly leave the social values to the parents. They get admirably no-holds barred sex-ed – my son apparently almost fainted during one class -

That's not 'leaving social values to the parents'. Leaving social values to the parents would be the sort of 'sex ed' my mother got in 1942 - from her mother.

I think Singapore is even worse when it comes to social engineering than Sweden. (I have lived in both) Singapore's media are just awful, relentlessly hammering in the same "Asian values" without any analysis or discussion in the press. Whenever they have an "analysis" piece, it is something that has been reprinted from the New York Times or Washington Post. It also seems naïve to say that schools don't teach social values. They foist the same kind of values onto the students as in e g Sweden in the 1950s. They may be *better* values in some ways - hard work, responsibility, etc - but it is far from "value-free".

Lots and lots of stuff about the environment and recycling, very little teaching of anything else. With rare exception students who want to get further education have to spend the better part of a year learning the basic skills of reading and math required to go further.

Two data points. I have a worker going through the apprenticeship program for our trade, and I'm comparing what he covered in the second year to what I did 25 years ago. I thought we wasted an enormous amount of time then. They didn't cover even the basics of what is required to work in the trade. The curriculum in the first year was 3/4 safety practices. Great, but our trade has very little problem with safety due to the technical competence of those who do the work. So teach technical competence. I am actively developing a training curriculum so that the people working for me can have the skills required. Fine, but the schooling is mandated by government.

Second, a friend works in the administration at the local community college. Much of what she does is organize the crowds. She has noticed a change over the last decade or so where young people show up utterly incapable of functioning independently in an environment. So it isn't entirely that the schools are the problem. Society had a problem.

There has been a stall in the productivity figures in Canada for quite a few years. Some has to do with the resource sector where more input is required to get the same output. But I suspect there is more.

If the Socialists demand 10,000 kr from 800,000 privileged white cisgender men, how many public housing projects can be built for Somali refugees?

See? It's easy to make math a tool for social justice. :p

And this is kind of odd:

"Each educational level builds upon the previous stages and lays the foundation for subsequent ones. For example, primary school students start by learning to know and love Singapore. In doing so, their belief in Singapore will be strengthened and they will understand what matters to Singapore by secondary school. They will grow to be proud of Singapore and understand our country within the global context at the post-secondary level."

Sounds a bit too social engineer-y

you're obviously not up on your dog whistles; "social engineering" only refers to discussions of race, gender, class, and whatever else might upset the already-privileged.

I can tolerate anything but the outgroup....

Many Westerners in Singapore, and they're fighting to get into the local schools.

This is interesting.

According to the foreign student intake at Cambridge in 2013, only 1.1% of Swedish applicants were accepted. This was the lowest acceptance rate except for Pakistan and Bulgaria. Singapore had an 11.1% acceptance rate, just below China at 11.4%.

Germany was 5.5%, France 4.1% etc.

Interesting. At the bachelor's level? I am faculty and teach Master's level courses at a top Swedish engineering university, and have noted a marked decline in student quality over even the last 8 years. Imagine Master's level engineers complaining about having to do math, or being unable to write coherent reports. Where and when I was trained (Canada), that level of student quality would have been unthinkable, but I also have colleagues noting that student quality in Canada is qualitatively declining.

Here's the data on Swedes at Oxford.

The average acceptance rate for EU applicants was 9.2%. For Swedish applicants it was 3.2%.

For 2013, both Oxford and Cambridge accepted 140 students from Singapore, a country of 3.3 million citizens.

They took 26 from Canada, which has 33 million people.

"Imagine Master’s level engineers complaining about having to do math,"

That seems surprising to me.

"or being unable to write coherent reports."

Well they are engineers, so traditionally there is some weakness on the general writing side. However, "coherent" is a red flag.

To be fair, that level of student quality was also unthinkable in Sweden ~20 years ago (when I was an engineering student). On the other hand, there seem to be loads of brilliant and often self-taught programmers around now.

The underlying assumption of the Cambridge acceptance hypothesis is that the pool of students from each country is the same...and I don't mean simply as you think in terms of intelligence or desire to attend Cambridge.

So, for example, if you came from a large country (India) that did not provide free post secondary education like guess who(Sweden) you would have two different primarily very large, probably affluent, with few choices in their home country, and the other probably satisfied with their choices. So, does the Swedish pool contain English proficient students, does it contain students who would otherwise be satisfied with sweden, but are seeking out Cambridge for a narrow specialty, or could they be party going students from Sweden who want to go to England...which says nothing about the quality of students remaining in Sweden, satisfied with their free public education.

"Social-engineering". You nailed it!
Locally it is called "social competence".

Except the "Extreme Right" and "immigrants" seem to be in agreement on their anti-Semitism, especially in Malmö.

What do you mean "except"? What does the fact that Muslims and neo-nazis both dislike Jews have to do with anything on Tyler's list? It's very sad. And somewhat awkward for the left.
(Parts of the far right are very pro-Israel, some on a "my enemy's enemy" basis, some on a "I don't mind Jews in their own country" basis. The latter phenomenon is very old, older than the Nazis. The former is new, and represents something of a reversal of the Nazi position, based on a reevaluation of who the "major" enemy is.)

They dislike them for different reasons. For Arabs, who for long centuries got along with Jews OK throughout the Muslim world, it probably is more linked to legitimate grievances and shared sympathy with the situation in Palestine.

Neo-Nazis and other KKK-esque progenitors are plain and simply racist, bigoted idiots who will love to get a hate on for anyone who can't crush them back. Bunch of losers, really.

>For Arabs, who for long centuries got along with Jews OK

Right. They got along so great, the UN had to invent Israel to save Jewish lives. You make a fantastic point.

Israel was "invented" to provide a refuge to jews fleeing from Europe

Why didn't the flee to the middle east between 1933 and 1945.
We are learning today, that muslims always have been very tolerant.

Antisemitism comes from right and left in europe. But the antisemitism that jews are moving away from comes from the muslim community.

Most Jews in Israel are of Sephardic and Oriental origin. They moved there en masse in 1948-50, with some later. After 1967, only Morocco and Iran in the Near East and North Africa had five-digit Jewish population.

Read between the lines....
Nobody wanted "the problem" so they all agreed to dump them "somewhere".
Collonial behaviour causing collonial problems....

Christ. Israel was invented to protect Jews from the Germans, and maybe the Russians, but certainly not the Arabs.

Well, once the Arab leaders got wind of the Zionists trying to buy up land for their new state, they put a stop to sales. Once Israel was established, they immediately tried to destroy it. Note also that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met with and worked with Hitler during WW II.

Well, once the Arab leaders got wind of the Zionists trying to buy up land for their new state, they put a stop to sales.

The area later known as the Mandate of Palestine was a collection of Turkish sanjaks prior to 1919 and under British rule from 1918 to 1948.

They correctly guessed that their long fight for democracy would turn out to be a democracy run by Jews who would run roughshod over them. That's why they opposed the entry of many thousands of Jews annually through the 1920s and 30s. IMO, not so much racism as a genuine desire to have their own democracy, which they have fought for for about a century and don't really have yet.

If Israel was supposed to protect Jews from Arabs, they didn't do a great job choosing the location....

Nothing unite people more the an external "evil" enemy.
If the external pressure disappear, many people would feel lost, "the struggle" might have become a part of their identity.
Learned something from history...doubt that...

So Arabs being tolerant of Jews as long as they are a submissive minority is a "legitimate grievance" unlike extreme far right extremist right wing fascists in Europe who hate Jews because they're helpless (?) are just a bunch of losers?

Sorta kinda. How does it help the Palestinians that Jew Bloggs gets a brick through his window and a swastika on his door? If you watch the recent SVT doc on antisemitism in Malmö, and compare it with earlier ones on the crank far right, what strikes you is that the perpetrators are (apart from the colour of their beards) pretty similar: dumb, bored, unemployed young men who want to feel brave by bullying people.

My impression is that about 99% of the time group hatreds and bullying is like this: there may indeed be some broad legitimate grievance there, but the guys throwing the bricks through windows or busting heads mostly don't know or care that much about that legitimate grievance--they're just the kind of guys who enjoy throwing bricks through windows and busting heads, and someone's given them a target that's acceptable in their community. I'm not sure how well that describes organized, top-down ethnic abuse, but my guess is that even there, the foot-soldiers are mostly guys who like terrorizing people but don't like getting arrested for it, and have found a way to pursue their hobby without going to jail.

Jews (and Christians) were subjected to the occasional pogrom in the Muslim world, but as long as they knew their inferior position were generally not murdered.

I'd prefer the Samson Option.

For Arabs, who for long centuries got along with Jews OK throughout the Muslim world,

In Morocco, not other parts of the Muslim world. In Yemen, the Jewish population were slaves of the Imam.

". For Arabs, who for long centuries got along with Jews OK throughout the Muslim world .."

Well if you ignore dhimmi status the occasional pogroms.

There was another post up there about the growing right wing in Sweden as a reaction to their immigration policies. I was pointing out that the right wing and the immigrants are united in their anti-semitism. It's weird that the thread broke. Usually these comment threads keep the thread structure while noting that the top level comment was removed.


Yeah, the perfect place for the magic yarmulka.

I'm no expert on Sweden, but I wonder if there's a correlation between what you see as its declining performance and this: "They already have done lots of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation." That may well be a big part of the causal explanation for points 3 and 6, and perhaps some of the others too. And above a certain size, it may well be that the financial sector starts to harm growth, in a 'finance curse' somewhat similar to the 'resource curse.'

These policy changes didn't happen in a vacuum; Swedish socialism in the 1970s was extinguishing what had once been the richest country in the world.

When are we calling Sweden the richest country in the world? The reign of Eric the Victorious?

No, Charles XII

Sweden's highest wealth rank during the 20th century was, I think, #4 in 1970. Not that impressive.

Errr--no--not sure how you are getting that. Troll much?

Seems like there are two major factors affecting the education outcome - immigration and the maturation of their charter school model. Which has the most impact?

I'd say the general dumbing down of the curriculum in accordance with progressive pedagogical theories is more important.

The charter schools in Sweden are mostly gymnasier ie ages 15-18, so the kids choose. Result: they are even MORE dumbed down. Free laptops! Free driving lessons! Mark your own work! gah.

No interest in the students future life...
New subjects are always available, subsidiced by the government.

Why hasn't anybody mentioned that immigrants are in Malmo? Is this not dragging down the Aryan stock? Steve? In Thailand, I saw a tall, blonde, fit Swedish male who married a short, dark, fat Thai girl, and they had a baby (that looked like the mom)... it's cool.

It's really cool.

It's just so damn cool.

It’s really not cool Enough said

Perhaps it's enough said if you're fluent in Swedish.

You often act like you support race mixing, I'm not sure how serious you are. But how do you think the Filipino men see you? A dirty old foreigner coming in and taking their women? If the White race goes down, people like you will be among the first to fall.

They probably don't mind dirty old foreigners hiring their prostitutes, that's good export income.

Can you elaborate on what 'the White race goes down' means?

Note pages 17 and 19:

Agree in general. Re 2 and 7: I think support for the Sweden Democrats may have peaked, and they are always on the brink of completely imploding due to infighting. But they have had their effect, cracks are starting to show in the cross-party pro-immigration consensus, so I think there will (for better or worse) be some tightening under the next (not current) government, gradually bringing the country into line with its neighbours.

6 is the most worrying. They might use deregulation of the rental market to prolong (and worsen) the property bubble.

Ignore all the nonsense in the comments about rape epidemics. An example: An EU-wide survey found that 70% of Swedish women had experienced sexual harrassment compared to about 20% of Itaians. Anyone who has spent any time in both countries will tell you that by Swedish definitions 100% of Italian women experience sexual harrassment, virtually every day.

I can believe a difference in how sexual harassment is defined could affect the stats, but I'm dubious about that explaining the difference in rape stats, especially when the rapes are concentrated in communities with lots of immigrants.

To the first point, Swedish statistics changed so as to count every indivudal *instance* of rape separately, even when you are dealing with a single trial. This is not the practice in most other countries. Also, do you seriously think for example an Italian wife is as likely as a Swede to seek prosecution of her own husband for rape, and do you think an Italian court is as like to convict him?
To the second, immigrants are certainly overrepresented among perpetrators, particularly of stranger rapes, but not nearly enough to account for the difference in rates compared to other countries. Most rapes are between partners/acquaintances, and perpetrated by ethnic Swedes.

Sweden spends 3.5% of it's GDP on research and development. Only below Israel and Finland......that should help with the Great Stagnation, right?

@Axa - think like a grandmaster economist...if in fact the Great Stagnation is for real, then spending more on R&D will NOT help, you're just throwing good money after bad, since science has hit a hard roadblock. Better then to be a free rider and not spend anything on science...

Ha! What's the status level of scientists in Sweden?

Neither particularly high or low status, I would say. There is certainly a smaller gain from getting a PhD than in most countries.

Why do you say that "science has hit a hard roadblock" ?

Also, Sweden's government and private companies will try to make mining 3 times bigger by 2030. I know commodities are not popular with economists. However, Sweden is already a world leader in mining engineering and technology. Knowledge is more valuable than iron ore, but you need to practice somewhere.

You don’t have to approve of those parties to see this as a symptom of a very slight underlying political rot setting in. The “extreme Right” party has seen a rapid rise in support.

Yes. Turns out all those ideas that sounded so cool when the current political elite were learning them in university are actually lowering Sweden's social and economic metrics. And as you also point out, a sovereign nation-state deciding who gets to cross its borders is now cast as an "extreme Right" position rather than a straightforward matter of national policy, to be debated seriously and presumably resolved in favor of the nation-state's extant citizens.

Can you spot the fallacies in this post?

I'll be back with some later, but for now, consider: What is the problem when you take one country and make the IMPLICIT Assumption that it is an island to itself by measuring some aspect of the economy inperiod 1 to period 2, for example.

But, lf you make this assumption that a country is a self sustaining economy, what you ignore is the level of demand in the markets Sweden sells to.

Anyone ever heard of a European Recession over the period 1 to period 2? Compare Sweden to other countries with whom it trades during this period and then look at relative rates. You can ignore quality of life in your comparison.

While those are clearly factors I don't think you can legitimately classify the post as full of fallacies.

OK, JW, you seemed to have given up on the economics fallacy, but perhaps you want more.

So, here's another one: Piza scores. Anytime someone says a countries Piza scores declined, or how they ranked relative to others, you should ask: what is the dispersion between countries (how close to others are the countries, when they are organized by rank (hint: a one or two point change moves you done five positions on a 400 point scale), ask what other countries changed as well on the scale downward: hint: New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, and Belgium); what was the change for the lowest performers and the highest performers in the country (hint: composition changes, and low performers increase, whereas in Germany, high performers increase and poor performers decrease over the same period.) You can get the data at OECD.

mmmm score some pizza.

"You can get the data at OECD."

Sure Bill, knock yourself out. Just don't go around complaining a post is full of fallacies because it didn't do an exhaustive analysis to your exact specifications.

JW, Too lazy to do a google search and type OECD and piza?

If you don't want to search for the data, just let me know, and I will post some links.

i wonder, Bill, what you think he'll find if he googles "piza"

Maybe the rest of Europe and the world is catching up in English?

The Nordics got a jump on English, for example by not dubbing television as much and, I think, going heavier on it in school. Perhaps the rest of the world is now also getting onboard with English?

Why are you bringing English fluency into it?


"Honing in"? I hope that was just autocorrect.

Arguably, Sweden's slipping in the ratings could reflect other countries doing better while Sweden remains the same. However, in a competitive international environment, this may well bode poorly for future outcomes. Then again, Swedes are probably far more creative at any given level of standardized testing (inidivudlal level) than any countries which I assume are competing with them for the high ranking (global ranking), so perhaps there isn't much to worry about? Well, they should worry at least a little.

1. The average product of their education system seems to have declined rather rapidly, as measured by test scores. On PISA they have gone from #4 to #21.

#1 seems unimportant to me, the USA has always done poorly on this sort of thing and it has not held us back much.

1. It might be due to immigration which would mean that the immigrants are dong better and the Swedes are doing better so what is bad?
2. It could just be a few bad years scores are close enough that it could just be random movement up and down.
3. I doubt that PISA measures anything important other than IQ anyway?

It's *way* more informative if you split the country standardized test numbers out by race. If I recall correctly, when you do that, US whites and (espcially) Asians are very competitive with foreign whites and Asians--part of the difference in PISA scores is apparently differences in racial makeup of the US vs other countries, and the long-standing test score gap between blacks, hispanics, whites, and Asians.

I think the split-by-race test scores also have some selective migration going on, since my understanding is that a lot of the Asian immigrants to the US are highly educated professionals (the stereotype being the Chinese engineer and the Indian doctor), so their kids tend to be extra smart and have parents that insist on good grades.

What does Sweden's educational variance as measured by PISA overall look like compared to the USA?

Also, when did Sweden rank 4 in the PISA?

>they have arrived at officially overrated status.

Not by anyone important. True, the statists have always irrationally idolized Scandanavia, regardless of facts -- but who cares? This will never change, and it is easily dismissed.

Would you say Alaska has arrived at officially overrated status because Sarah Palin keeps raving about it? I think not. Put Krugman in the same bin, where he belongs.

"You can be pro-immigration, and still not think Sweden is honing in on the right mix of domestic policy and immigration policy."

Yes. This is the right focal point for the immigration conversation. The US discussion should shift far away from the strain of thought which holds that the only acceptable policy is no regulation, no filtering, no enforcement, and an immigration free-for-all wherein local, county and state governments have their hands tied and their budgets constrained while bearing almost all of the additional responsibility for human welfare, infrastructure and service growth with almost none of the required additional funding. In short, the US discussion should abandon the notion that the only acceptable policy is no policy at all.

I think a lot depends on what the definition of "pro immigration" is.

If it means a continuous level of high immigration to the US for the benefit of the immigrants themselves, their family members already here or those who hope to come here eventually and for business interests who want cheap labor and want more customers even if they are a net burden on the taxpayer, well, then, we can expect new immigration laws to be mostly counterproductive.

There's no good reason that we do not return to looking at immigration as we used to, on the basis of what is good for Americans and America -- all Americans and all of America. What we would have would be a pro-American immigration policy.

It's an insipid country where social workers are allowed to trample over the landscape like cow-elephants and dissidents are subject to criminal penalties.

Social workers are in fact overworked and have low status. Your view seems to be from the 1970s. Can you give an example of criminal penalties to dissidents? Groupthink and political correctness is one thing (and those are strong for sure in SE) but criminal penalties?

Like the minister who was sentenced to prison for preaching against homosexuality, I imagine.

He was sentenced to prison for publicly comparing homosexuals to a cancer in society, in accordance with a law that prohibits inciting violence against minorities.

I think its debateble whether that law is a just one or not, but if that is used as the standard for if dissidents are being subject to criminal penalties you would have to add Britain, Canada, France and Germany to the list of insipid countries.

You can. And this is interesting.

It's all over but the crying.

He was sentenced to prison for publicly comparing homosexuals to a cancer in society, in accordance with a law that prohibits inciting violence against minorities.

I think its debateble whether that law is a just one or not, but if the law in itself is used as the standard for if dissidents are being subject to criminal penalties you would have to add Britain, Canada, France and Germany to the list of insipid countries.

If on the other hand it is the actual courtcase, then it may be noteworthy that while the lower court convicted him, he was acquitted by the court of appeals and then finally by the supreme court.

Anti-Gnostic - could you explain that chart? Can't make heads or tails of it. It has 2 categories - "Immigrant" and "Non-Immigrant" which together, by definition, encompass the whole population, yet the #'s don't add up to anywhere near 100% - so I for one am confused.


It's by age group as % of population. And what it shows is old and non-working natives will be living off the productivity of young and working immigrants.

That's the theory anyway. I think the reality will be a lot different.

Can we face the fact that we're credentialing a bunch of moronic atomized individuals who have been coddled with low expectations since birth?

No one has ever described me that accurately before!

How does a discussion of relative economic performance among Scandinavian countries devolve into a mudslinging fight about Jews and Muslims?

in the right wing crank o sphere sweden is a butt of many jokes because of their immigration policies. the usual jews opening borders and destroying the homeland stuff, thats why.



Were posts deleted? This is the first mention of Jews in the thread, and Muslims were barely mentioned once before.

Clearly something was deleted and broke the thread. Hate it when that happens here

Re: PISA, for Sweden and other nations, for a comparison which may measure and tap skills more and educational effort / obsession less, how about the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)?

The mode of operation for PIAAC

"interviewing adults aged 16 to 65 in their homes – 5 000 individuals in each participating country
answering questions via computer, although the survey can also be implemented via pencil-and-paper
assessing literacy and numeracy skills and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments
collecting a broad range of information, including how skills are used at work and in other contexts, such as the home and the community."

Sweden's overall position for all age groups is 5th for numeracy and literacy. Numeracy in the 16-24 age group numeracy 278, literacy 283.

Comparisons for other 16-24 groups are South Korea - n 281, l 293, Japan - n 283, l 299, Germany - n 275, l 279, Ireland - n 258, l 271, Italy - n 251, l 261, Canada - n 268, l 276, Estonia - n 279, l 287.

You'd expect these young groups to match the OECD PISA in the rank ordering. They mostly do - but not totally. Why?

It seems like Canada is something of an an outlier in having its adult skills overpredicted by PISA while Sweden is among those underpredicted. South Korea seems have its adult skills the most overpredicted by PISA. Or its PISA underpredicted by adult skills if you'd prefer PISA to be closer the goal.

My guess would be that Canada and Korea are great at creating a rigorous environment within the school that encourages effort, but have less of this in their everyday society, while Swedish society is relatively more rigorous and serious outside the school walls, when students are on their own time. That's in line with Tyler's comments about the general impressiveness of the Swedish social ethic and generally strong social institutions. PISA rankings do seem, to some extent, an index of how much a nation cares about high school, rather than the end quality of its adults in daily life, or the ultimate outcomes of its university system.

Interestingly, with the PIAAC, Sweden is about at the median in terms of university-high school student gap -, as is Canada, where for instance Korea is again at the other pole where university grads appear to have almost no literacy or numeracy skills advantage over high school graduates. We would expect some gap to be in evidence if a nation's university system is either at all selective or at all adds any value.

You may be right, Tyler. But, you should also keep in mind that the literature forecasting doom for the "Swedish mode." is very long and has been churning out since the 1950s.

Interesting to read about Sweden from the outside.

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