Why do some countries rank unexpectedly high in certain categories?

The Good Country Index is different from other country rankings, because it looks at the external impact of countries, not their domestic performance. This often produces a different picture of the world than the one we’re used to seeing: an unfamiliar, but revealing picture.

You can see this clearly in the “Science & Technology” and “Culture” categories, where we often find countries not normally associated with these fields ranking very high. This is because we’re not measuring how technologically advanced countries are, or how valuable their cultures are: we are assessing how active and effective they are in sharing their scientific, technological and cultural assets with other populations around the world.

For example, Belgium often ranks very high in the ‘Culture’ ranking: this doesn’t imply that Belgium has “more culture” than, for example, Greece, Mexico or China: it means that, relative to its size, Belgium works harder at sharing its cultural activities and outputs with the international community - as far as it’s possible to measure these things with the available data.

Similarly, the United States is of course among the world’s most advanced countries in terms of the quantity, quality and importance of its scientific and technological activity, but it doesn’t rank at the top of this category because there are a number of other countries which, in proportion to the size of their economies, do a better job of sharing what technology and scientific knowledge they do produce. (Note that we don’t count commercial exports of scientific and technological goods in the ranking because as far as possible we try to keep this a measurement of countries, not companies).

The rankings in the Peace and Security category also tend to be quite unexpected: see the separate FAQ on this topic.