Monday Trivia No. 56

Frankly, I think there’s more than meets the eye with the statistics underlying this week’s list, but all the information comes from the government so who am I to question it?

Anyway, the top ten nations on this week’s list are, in descending order: United Arab Emirates (2.06), Saudi Arabia (1.94), Macau (1.94), Cayman Islands (1.90), Hong Kong (1.88), Panama (1.85), Antigua and Barbuda (1.84), Montenegro (1.78), Russia (1.72), and Vietnam (1.68).

The bottom ten are, in ascending order: Myanmar – or Burma if you prefer (.01), North Korea (.02), Eritrea (.03), American Samoa (.03), Solomon Islands (.05), Marshall Islands (.06), Somalia (.06), Ethiopia (.07), Cuba (.09), and Kiribati (.10).

The United States of America (.89) is at the midpoint, number 110 on the list — in between Paraguay (.90) and Indonesia (.89). By way of comparison, Mexico (.79) is number 125, Canada (.70) is number 143, and the United Kingdom (1.28) is number 40. For our ANZAC Readers, New Zealand (1.16) is number 63 and Australia (1.02) is number 89.

The list consists of 219 nations, nearly all of which are recognized by the United Nations; however, I was unable to find complete data for South Sudan so it is not included in the list.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


    • That’s a good one. I initially thought children per person or children per family, but that makes no sense.

  1. My guess is that it’s related to foreign capital flows or sovereign wealth. Where’s Norway on the list?

  2. All of the leading countries are enormous international traders, exporting or importing tremendous amounts of goods. Mostly natural resources like oil or finished goods in shipping containers or the like.

    So it’s again weird not to see Norway higher up. Also the United States, although if it’s some kind of ratio between domestic production and the import/export trade, we would get roughly this pattern. The hermit kingdoms are at the bottom; the import/export entrepots are at the top. The U.S. and Norway both import/export a lot, but they also have domestic consumption industries.

    • Ehh, well. With the exception of Montenegro.

      • You’re forgetting their massive trade in orchids.

  3. Tuesday hint: Tod was correct insofar as what we’re looking at is measured “per capita.” But all the macroeconomics is off the mark. A bit simpler than that.

    • The deviation between individual entries on the list would become statistically insignificant at that point, don’t you think?

      • All people are equal, but some are more equal than others!

        • If so I would expect more from American Samoa and fewer from Montenegro.

  4. Cell phones per capita.

    If this is the answer – and I’m pretty sure it is, since every calculation I’ve checked works out exactly – the biggest clue should have been “all the information comes from the government so who am I to question it.” That pretty much means that it has to be a statistic easily calculated by looking at the CIA World Factbook. The clincher was seeing Vietnam as the country with the 7th most cell phones in the world even though it is far from the world’s 7th largest country.

    • Mark got it. Including identifying the source data.

      What on Earth does the average Montenegrin do with 1.78 cell phones?

      EDIT: Looking at the time-stamps, it appears that Randy Harris, our resident King of Trivia, got there first.

      • Get updates from the guy who does all his legwork.

      • What I want to know is how a country with per capita GDP of $3300 and a pretty good-sized population like Vietnam winds up with 1.68 cell phones per person.

        The only explanation I can think of – and this would apply to most of the countries at the top of the list, including Montenegro – is that the cell phone statistics include temporary business residents. Each of those countries is either a city-state commercial hub (Macau, Hong Kong, UAE to a certain extent), off-shore banking hub (Antigua, Cayman Islands) or a place that is currently attracting boatloads of foreign direct investment (all of the rest). So you wind up with all sorts of temporary residents who are there to do business and probably have multiple cell phones for personal and business use. Presumably these temporary residents don’t show up in population statistics even though their cell phones do. Saudi Arabia and UAE also have massive numbers of temporary immigrant laborers, few of whom will have land lines and most of whom would presumably have need of a cell phone.

        The problem is even that explanation doesn’t go very far towards explaining Vietnam or Russia, both of which have sufficiently large populations and low enough numbers of migrant laborers that “foreign business people” and/or “migrant laborers” shouldn’t result in multiple cell phones per capita.

        • Cell phones are actually pretty big in some third-world nations because they have bad landline infrastructure. They’re also dirt cheap in Asia. I got a cell phone in Hong Kong for about $20, with a prepaid SIM card for (IIRC) $10 or so. I believe it was made for the Indian market, since it has what looks like some sort of Indian script on the buttons, although the on-screen text is English.

          Prepaid cards might be part of the issue, actually. If you buy one, and misplace it without using it up, and buy another, does that count as two? It’s not clear how those are accounted for.

    • I actually had the same idea, but the numbers didn’t seem to check out to me. I guess I should have said something.

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