Western Europeans are Cowboys

The American Wild West. The Canadian Rockies. The Australian Outback. Where have all the cowboys gone? Well, there’s no doubt about it: In contrast to their more-civilized colonial cousins, Western Europeans are just a bunch of hillbillies.

Let’s look at the reasons:

1. Americans, Australians and Canadians are richer

Gapminder offers several metrics of prosperity under the Economy > Incomes & Growth menu, all of which indicate Americans, Australians and Canadians earn more per person, worker, and working hour than the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and most of the rest of Western Europe.

2. Americans and Canadians are better educated

It stands to reason that richer people are those who are better educated. Among people ages 25 and up, Americans average a greater mean number of years in school than Europeans…and Canadians average even more.

3. The US and Australia have higher Human Development Indexes (HDI)

This fact is related to the previous one, since the Human Development Index (HDI) is partially based on the mean number of years of schooling. In 2010, only four countries scored above 0.90: Norway, Australia, New Zealand and the US, putting them ahead of France, Germany, the UK, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and the rest of Europe.

4. More Western Europeans than Americans are farmers

According to Gapminder’s 2007 figures under the Work > ‘Employment by sector’ menu, only 1.4% of Americans are farmers, among the lowest percentages in the world. In Western Europe, only the UK and Luxembourg are similar. (Even in Singapore, which is very urban, the figure is 1.1%.)  For Canadians, it’s 2.5% and among Australians, 3.4%. But in France it’s also 3.4%, Italy and Switzerland 4%, Spain 4.5%, and Austria 5.9%. Even the Netherlands is 3%.

Judging by ‘Agriculture (% of GDP)’ on the Economy > Sectors menu, the economic importance of agriculture in the US rates above Germany, the UK and Belgium, but below France, Italy, and the Netherlands. At 1.3% of GDP in 2007, it’s about the same in the US as in Norway and Sweden. And in terms of the percent of land area devoted to farming (on the Environment > Geography menu), most of Europe leaves the US in the dust.

5. Americans, Australians and Canadians are more urban

The stereotype might be that Western Europeans pack themselves into large cities while Americans and Australians live on farmland. But according to Gapminder’s ‘Urban population (% of total)’ data, with 82% of its population in urban areas in 2005, the US has the same percentage of city-dwellers as the Netherlands, placing it ahead of France (77%), Germany (73%), Austria (68%) and Italy (68%). Only the United Kingdom (90%) and Belgium (97%) are more built-up than the US.

The urban percentage of Japan, a country known for its large metropolitan areas, is only 66%, while Australia and Canada, countries known for their farms and ranches, are 88% and 80% (respectively) – among the world’s highest.

Part of the variation might be due to differing definitions of what constitutes ‘urban’, but if Gapminder has not accounted for this, what is the value of their data for this metric?

6. The US exports more High Technology than Europe

Perhaps not surprising, a place that is richer, better-educated and more urban also produces more high-technology exports, which Gapminder defines as those with a high R&D intensity, such as “aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals, scientific instruments and electrical equipment”.

Of exports, 30% from the US in the year 2005 fit this category. Among European countries, only Ireland (35%) and the Netherlands (31%) surpassed the US. The UK was close behind with 28%. But Germany, Norway and Sweden’s 17% barely edged out Indonesia’s 16%. France’s 20% was the same as Mexico. And Switzerland and Denmark’s 22% tied Burkina Faso.

The US also has more Internet users per person and more computers per person than Western Europe.

7. Europeans smoke and drink a lot

As I have shown previously in ‘White People are Drug Addicts people from Europe, like all good cowboys, are a hard-drinking, heavy-smoking lot. Far more so than Australians, Americans and Canadians, who are comparatively a bunch of Puritans.

All in all, Gapminder’s data shows that Europeans are just of bunch of cowboys, relatively speaking. And if their lower fertility rates continue the way they have been, Europe will soon have more ghost towns, too.


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