NORMALIZED

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

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:

Indicator Azerbaijan World average
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.

Rank Country GDP per capita Jobless rate Gov. spending as % of GDP Inflation rate Trade as % of GDP
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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