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NORMALIZED

The global economy isn’t like your country’s economy—it’s like Azerbaijan’s

The city of Baku
Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi
Baku, an average capital city.
By Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What is the most “normal” country in the world? Economically speaking, the answer may surprise you.

It’s not the US, China, India, Germany, or any other big and influential country. It’s Azerbaijan.

The oil-dependent nation of 10 million people situated at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, is the most economically normal place on earth. Quartz measured how similar 156 countries are to the global economic average according to five key metrics, and no country resembled the world quite so closely as Azerbaijan:

GDP per capita
$17,800
$15,700
Unemployment rate
5.0%
5.7%
Government spending as % of GDP
38.0%
35.0%
Inflation
4.0%
1.6%
Trade as a % of GDP
72.6%
58.2%

On every metric but trade, Azerbaijan is among the top quarter of countries in terms of similarity to the global economy. In addition to these measures, Azerbaijan is almost exactly like the world in terms of life expectancy—71.7 for the world and 70.9 for Azerbaijanis—and urbanization—53.9% of all people live in urban areas, compared with 54.6% in Azerbaijan.

This chart shows the 10 countries most like the global economy according to our analysis, along with their similarity score (more on the methodology below). The lower the score, the more similar a country is to global economic averages. With a score 14% lower than China, its nearest competitor, Azerbaijan is, in a sense, radically normal.

Our methodology involved adding up a country’s difference from the world on the five measures discussed above. We used data from the World Bank and Heritage Foundation. Since these data are on different scales, we had to standardize them so they were comparable, using a method called z-scoring. Basically, the further away from a country was from the world average, the higher the score on that measure.

The three least-normal countries in the world are poor and inflation-ridden: Ukraine, Yemen, and Sudan (in ascending order of distance from the global average). Rich and trade-heavy economies like Singapore, Qatar, and Hong Kong are also very far from the global norm.

Of course, the results of our analysis are highly dependent on the indicators used. For example, we would have liked to include measures of poverty and inequality, but recent data are not available for many countries. The five measures we ended up using were unavailable for 40 of the world’s 196 countries, although most of those excluded are very small.

The table below ranks selected countries by their global normalcy.

Global avg.
$15,700
5.7%
35.0%
1.6%
58.2%
1
Azerbaijan
$17,800
5.0%
38.0%
4.0%
72.6%
2
China
$14,500
4.6%
29.3%
1.4%
40.5%
3
Romania
$22,100
6.8%
33.9%
-0.6%
82.7%
4
Mexico
$17,000
4.3%
28.1%
2.7%
72.8%
5
Australia
$46,300
6.1%
35.6%
1.5%
41.0%
8
Saudi Arabia
$53,500
5.6%
38.0%
2.2%
72.5%
10
Canada
$44,300
6.9%
40.7%
1.1%
65.5%
13
United Kingdom
$41,800
5.3%
45.1%
0.1%
56.9%
15
Turkey
$20,000
10.2%
38.5%
7.7%
58.8%
18
South Korea
$34,600
3.6%
31.8%
0.7%
84.8%
19
Philippines
$7,400
6.3%
18.6%
1.4%
63.0%
37
Poland
$26,900
7.5%
42.2%
-0.9%
96.0%
40
South Africa
$13,200
25.1%
31.7%
4.6%
62.5%
46
Germany
$48,000
4.6%
44.3%
0.1%
86.0%
52
United States
$56,100
5.3%
38.9%
0.1%
28.0%
54
Japan
$40,800
3.4%
42.3%
0.8%
35.6%
58
Indonesia
$11,100
6.0%
19.1%
6.4%
41.9%
60
Russia
$24,500
5.6%
38.2%
15.5%
50.7%
61
India
$6,100
3.5%
27.0%
4.9%
42.2%
65
Italy
$37,200
11.9%
51.0%
0.1%
57.0%
71
Malaysia
$27,000
3.1%
29.3%
2.1%
134.2%
77
Brazil
$15,500
8.5%
38.6%
9.0%
27.0%
87
Spain
$34,700
22.1%
44.3%
-0.5%
63.9%
92
Sweden
$47,900
7.4%
53.3%
0.7%
86.4%
93
France
$41,000
10.4%
57.0%
0.1%
61.4%
97
Egypt
$10,900
12.8%
33.7%
11.0%
34.9%
103
Pakistan
$5,000
5.9%
21.4%
4.5%
27.6%
111
Kenya
$3,100
11.3%
25.3%
6.6%
44.8%
118
Vietnam
$6,000
2.1%
28.8%
0.6%
178.8%
122
Bangladesh
$3,300
4.1%
14.6%
6.4%
42.1%
133
Thailand
$16,300
0.7%
24.3%
-0.9%
126.8%
138
Ethiopia
$1,600
5.3%
17.8%
10.1%
37.2%
142
Nigeria
$6,000
4.3%
13.4%
9.0%
21.4%
147
Argentina
$20,300
6.6%
40.3%
26.5%
22.9%
150
Hong Kong
$56,900
3.3%
17.6%
3.0%
400.9%
151
Qatar
$141,500
0.2%
31.4%
1.7%
92.1%
152
Singapore
$85,400
1.7%
18.2%
-0.5%
326.1%
154
Sudan
$4,400
13.2%
13.1%
16.9%
19.1%
155
Yemen
$2,800
18.1%
30.8%
30.0%
32.7%
156
Ukraine
$7,900
9.1%
48.1%
48.7%
107.5%

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