|Trump should dress in more appropriate garb…but we can do more sensible things.|
I am utterly appalled, but not surprised, by American President Donald Trump’s reported characterization of a number of developing nations as “shit–hole countries.” In his rhetoric, Trump can be argued to subscribe to a global racial hierarchy which goes roughly like this:
White American > White European > White Australian/New Zealander > Japanese > Other East Asian > Southeast Asian > South Asian > South American > Caribbean > African
Variations on this kind of racist thinking have a long tradition, basing human capabilities on skin color, geography, or some other questionable criteria. While reducing immigration from non-white nations has been a central plank to Trumpism–AKA “terrorists,” “drug dealers,” “rapists,” and “killers,” his claimed desire to re-prioritize European migration is interesting. For a long time in its history, the United States of course gave preference to white European settlers. Aside from the demographics of aging European countries not being ideal for sending migrants, the question comes to mind as to whether today’s United States can attract these more “desirable” people. Trump made the comparison himself when speaking about how people from Norway–whose leader recently visited the US–would make a far better source country for migrants to America.
The answer is a clear no. Statistically speaking, there are next to no reasons as to why a Norwegian national would desire to become an American national. Let’s look at the numbers:
1. Norway has the highest human development index (HDI) rating in the entire world, the United States rather less so. The United States barely makes the top 10. The HDI is a useful indicator of human progress insofar as it not only considers economic measures–production per capita–but also those for health and education. I can go on and on about “American health” (an oxymoron if there ever was one). The United States has the fattest people among OECD nations and, on a related note, is remarkable in declining among the aforesaid nations in terms of comparative life expectancy. In other words, its momentum is sinking rather than rising in HDI judging by the health component. As for education, do you really have to ask? Of course Norwegian students outdo American ones in science, reading and mathematics.
2. Norway is so wealthy that its government has earmarked over $190,000 to each citizen. By contrast, the United States saddles each of its citizens with over $63,000 in debt (and rising). The United States is said to be a country rich in natural resources as well as human capital. For any number of reasons, however, the country has never had a sovereign wealth fund accumulating state revenues from resource extraction activities. As it so happens, Norway has one of the world’s largest–which is exceptional for a country with such a small population. If you allocate holdings of the Government Pension Fund (~USD1 trillion) to its ultimate beneficiaries, each Norwegian citizen (~5.2 million), then each Norwegian has over $190,000 to bank on.
The United States is a rather more sobering story. Its national debt has climbed above $20.5 trillion and is set to rise much more quickly in the near future due to various health and pension obligations which have been largely unplanned for (unlike, say, by Norway). Distributed to each citizen, that’s $63,000 so far. So, someone with a Trump-like worldview trading Norwegian for American citizenship instantly loses $253,000. What a deal.
3. The idea that greater inequality is tolerated in the United States because opportunities there are greater has long since been debunked. Economic mobility in Scandinavian countries like Norway is much greater than in the United States, where your financial conditions are more significantly correlated to that of your parents. This finding is repeatedly shown in study after study; see Pew for a recent one.
So, here’s the question for Trump since he’s the one who brought up Norway in the first place: What reasons are there for why Norwegians would want to move to what appears to be the “shit–hole” country here by way of comparison? The answer is few, and that’s actually what’s happening.