Here is a new Lancet paper by Stephen S. Lim, et.al., via the excellent Charles Klingman. Finland is first, the United States is #27, and China and Russia are #44 and #49 respectively. There is plenty of “rigor” in the paper, but I say this is a good example of what is wrong with the social sciences and more specifically the publication process. The correct answer is a weighted average of the median, the average, the high peaks, and a country’s ability to innovate, part of which depends upon the market size a person has in his or her sights. So in reality the United States is number one, and China and Russia should both rank much higher (Cuba and Brunei beat them out, for instance, Cuba at #41, Brunei at #29). And does it really make sense to put North Korea (#113) between Ecuador and Egypt? I’m fine with Finland being in the top fifteen, but I am not even sure it beats Sweden. Overall the paper would do better by simply measuring non-natural resource-based per capita gdp, though of course that could be improved upon too.
Now, I did zero work on that one, and came up with a better result than the authors. What does that tell you?
Addendum: You will note the first sentence of the paper’s background claims: human capital refers to “the level of education and health in a population”. The first two sentences of the actual paper immediately contradict this: “Human capital refers to the attributes of a population that, along with physical capital such as buildings, equipment, and other tangible assets, contribute to economic productivity. Human capital is characterised as the aggregate levels of education, training, skills, and health in a population, affecting the rate at which technologies can be developed, adopted, and employed to increase productivity.” The paper does an OK job of measuring the former, but absolutely fails on the latter.