08/18/2016

Denmark's Nice, Yes, But Danes Live Better In The U.S.

Tyler Cowen, BloombergView

During the Democratic primary season, Bernie Sanders stressed some of the superiorities of Denmark over the U.S. And indeed Denmark is wealthy, has strong social and economic indicators, and it offers a comprehensive safety net. 

But is it the policies of Denmark that we should admire, or is there something special about being Danish? A closer look at the evidence shows a more complex picture and one actually pretty favorable to the American way.

Nima Sanandaji, a Swedish policy analyst and president of European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, has recently published a book called "Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism." And while the title may be overstated, his best facts and figures are persuasive. 

For instance, Danish-Americans have a measured living standard about 55 percent higher than the Danes in Denmark. Swedish-Americans have a living standard 53 percent higher than the Swedes, and Finnish-Americans have a living standard 59 percent higher than those back in Finland. Only for Norway is the gap a small one, because of the extreme oil wealth of Norway, but even there the living standard of American Norwegians measures as 3 percent higher than in Norway. And that comparison is based on numbers from 2013, when the price of oil was higher, so probably that gap has widened.

Of the Nordic groups, Danish-Americans have the highest per capita income, clocking in at $70,925. That compares to an U.S. per capita income of $52,592, again the numbers being from 2013. Sanandaji also notes that Nordic-Americans have lower poverty rates and about half the unemployment rate of their relatives across the Atlantic.

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