US News ranks ‘Best Countries,’ and a neighbor is No. 1

For the sixth edition of its Best Countries Rankings, U.S. News & World Report is singling out a new top-performer.

Canada takes the No. 1 ranking this year from Switzerland, which fell to No. 4, while the United States climbed one position to No. 6 overall.

The rankings — which are a collaboration among U.S. News, BAV Group and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School — are intended to improve understanding of how nations are perceived globally. They comprise 10 subrankings on such things as “open for business,” “quality of life” and “cultural influence,” as well as over a dozen “best for” rankings.

Over 17,000 people from 36 nations were surveyed online to rank 78 countries that met certain bench marks for gross domestic product, foreign direct investment and international tourism, among other criteria.

(The survey was taken after the 2020 presidential election.)

“Nations are impacted on many critical fronts by how they are perceived globally — from foreign relations to international business to tourism. These perceptions are ever-evolving in a rapidly changing world,” said U.S. News’s editor and chief content officer, Kim Castro, in a statement.

“The 2021 Best Countries analysis combines data and storytelling to explore how countries compare on a host of global issues.”

Changes in this year’s rankings are due in part to a change in the metrics, which U.S. News reshaped amid two of the biggest stories of 2020 — the COVID-19 pandemic and global reaction to the police killing of George Floyd.

So for this year’s edition, U.S. News had two new subrankings: “agility” (i.e. how adaptable and responsive a country is) and “social purpose” (which concerns racial equity, animal rights, climate goals and a commitment to social justice).

The top 10 overall standouts, per U.S. News …

  1. Canada
  2. Japan
  3. Germany
  4. Switzerland
  5. Australia
  6. United States
  7. New Zealand
  8. United Kingdom
  9. Sweden
  10. Netherlands

This year’s No. 6 topped the subrankings for “power” and “agility,” the latter of which was weighted the most heavily. The U.S. also did well in “entrepreneurship” and “cultural influence” (No. 3 for both).

Other positive takeaways for the Red, White and Blue could be found in U.S. News’ “best for” lists: The United States topped the lists of “most influential countries” and “best countries for education.” It also ranked fourth on the list of “best countries to start a business” and third of “most forward-looking countries.”

But there was room for improvement on the lists of “best countries to invest in” (ranked No. 17), “best countries for women” (No. 18) and “best countries to start a career in” (No. 19). And among subrankings, the U.S. was 20th in “quality of life,” 19th in “social purpose” and 16th in “heritage.”

As for the best-ranked country, Canada topped the “quality of life” and “social purpose” subrankings. It was also ranked No. 3 in the “open for business” subranking and sixth in “entrepreneurship.” And on the survey’s “best for” lists, Canada was ranked No. 2 among “best countries for racial equality” and “best countries to headquarter a corporation.” It also was recognized as fourth among “best countries for women.”

Other insights gained from the survey:

  • Most of those surveyed view women leaders in a positive light, and 68% say that countries led by women tend to be better managed.
  • Two-thirds of those surveyed say that despite the pandemic’s challenges, people have become more caring during it.
  • Three-fourths of those surveyed believe that conspiracy theories “are a threat to society,” yet about 38% believe that governments made up the pandemic “to control their citizens.”

You can check out the full rankings in detail on the U.S. News website.

Jack Pointer

Jack Pointer is a writer and editor with a variety of news and publishing experience, including more than a decade at The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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