Ranking by GDP per capita instead of just GDP means that states with mega-economies such as California, which has the top GDP in the United States (its GDP is also larger than most countries’), was knocked down to 14th place among the states when divided by its more than 38 million residents. Alaska comes in first, with a GDP of more than $59 billion divided by a population of 735,000.
Norway was the top European country on the list, between Massachusetts and New Jersey. Nelson wrote that the United Kingdom’s low ranking showed Britain had “no reason to feel smug” about recent events in Ferguson, Mo.:
“The United States may be a great place to be rich, we like to think, but they treat their deprived appallingly over there. We tend to watch reports from poorer American states with a shudder, thankful that our country is run along different, more compassionate lines.But if Britain were to somehow leave the European union and become the 51st state of America, we would actually be one of the poor states. If you take our economic output, adjust for living costs and slot it into the US league table then the United Kingdom emerges as the second-poorest state in the union. We’re poorer than much-maligned Kansas and Alabama and well below Missouri, the scene of all the unrest in recent weeks. Only Mississippi has lower economic output per head than the UK; strip out the South East and Britain would rank bottom. We certainly have our problems; we’re just better at concealing them.”
Nelson argues that income inequality and racial tension in the United States are more visible because of factors such as “white flight,” which Britain doesn’t have space for, and Americans’ tendency to publicly discuss these issues.
“No one beats up America better than Americans,” he wrote. “They openly debate their inequality, conduct rigorous studies about it, argue about economics vs. culture as causes…. And the debate is so fierce that the rest of the world looks on, and joins in lamenting America’s problems. A shame: we’d do better to get a little angrier at our own.”