Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Where to get the most bang for your buck

A few seemingly informed commenters have reported that friends have shifted into reverse, emigrating across the Atlantic back to the Old Continent, the bar lowered from hopes of verdant pastures to wishes for a little soil fertile enough for merit and the preservation of Western culture. I'm nowhere near that stage, but I live in the heart of flyover country. Racial politics are mostly a national phenomenon and the surrounding population strongly resists governmental interference in the private sector. Nonetheless, remembering the words of Martin Niemoller, it seemed nice to have some idea of where I may jet off to in the future to live it up if the US continues down the path of economic feudalism and a political race-spoils system.

To get an idea of how far my money US dollars will take me, I compared the GDP of the globe's nations at the official exchange rate with the US to the CIA's best estimate of each nation's respective GDP in terms of purchasing power parity. Currency fluctuations, regional differences within nations, and the inherent problems in creating a (sometimes hypothetical) basket of items to be purchased comparatively (Burmanese medical care may be cheap but qualitative concerns obviously exist), do not lead to exact cost-of-living comparisons, but they do provide a nice way to compare generally how far your dollars will go in different parts of the world.

The greater the exchange rate (all data is in US dollars at the GDP level) compared to purchasing power parity, the more stuff you'll be able to buy with the dollars exchanged in the foreign country under examination. Conceptually, imagine you can get $1,000 Eagleland for $10 US. In Eagleland, a burger only costs $10 Eagleland. At home it costs $1 US. So where you could've bought ten burgers in the US, you can now buy 100 in Eagleland. Sweet! Except Eagleland probably trades what it offers in cheap goods (and services) with things like rampant poverty, political instability, and underdevelopment.

The ideal runaway spot is a place that is modern but also allows you to live like a king. What follows is a rank order listing of countries by exchange rate-PPP ratio as a percentile. The US is theoretically 100% since the comparisons are in US dollars--$1 exchanged should buy you $1 worth of goods in the US (CIA data actually has it at 98.6%, probably due to the estimative nature of PPP). Over 100% means your dollars will go further than they will in the US, less than 100% means they won't go as far.

1. Burma -- 1073.3%
2. Zimbabwe -- 801.1%
3. Burundi -- 740.3%
4. Ethiopia -- 734.0%
5. Cambodia -- 720.7%
6. Gambia -- 707.2%
7. Rwanda -- 690.1%
8. Uganda -- 603.9%
9. Nepal -- 588.1%
10. Ghana -- 582.8%
11. Dem. Rep. of Congo -- 555.0%
12. Vietnam -- 537.6%
13. Guinea -- 521.5%
14. Mauritania -- 512.7%
15. Uzbekistan -- 510.2%
16. India -- 509.3%
17. Laos -- 487.1%
18. Bangladesh -- 481.3%
19. Kyrgyzstan -- 470.1%
20. Mozambique -- 457.1%
21. Tajikistan -- 456.7%
22. Philippines -- 451.5%
23. Pakistan -- 441.3%
24. Togo -- 440.3%
25. Guyana -- 439.8%
26. Ukraine -- 438.0%
27. Sierra Leone -- 437.9%
28. Guinea-Bissau -- 418.2%
29. Azerbaijan -- 413.4%
30. Paraguay -- 399.8%
31. China -- 399.2%
32. Sri Lanka -- 398.1%
33. Sudan -- 377.5%
34. Mongolia -- 376.6%
35. Dominican Republic -- 371.6%
36. Malawi -- 371.2%
37. Lesotho -- 367.7%
38. Papua New Guinea -- 366.2%
39. Eritrea -- 359.4%
40. Colombia -- 349.0%
41. Moldova -- 348.1%
42. Bhutan -- 345.0%
43. Madagascar -- 340.1%
44. Niger -- 337.7%
45. Equatorial Guinea -- 336.1%
46. Egypt -- 329.7%
47. Haiti -- 323.3%
48. Indonesia -- 322.1%
49. Nicaragua -- 320.1%
50. Iran -- 314.5%
51. Burkina Faso -- 308.2%
52. Afghanistan -- 303.0%
53. Macedonia -- 300.5%
54. Sao Tome -- 299.8%
55. Thailand -- 299.2%
56. Argentina -- 298.6%
57. Armenia -- 296.8%
58. Liberia -- 292.7%
59. Chad -- 291.3%
60. South Africa -- 288.7%
61. Nambia -- 284.6%
62. Turkmenistan -- 279.8%
63. Solomon Islands -- 279.7%
64. Bulgaria -- 277.9%
65. Syria -- 276.4%
66. Algeria -- 276.1%
67. Belarus -- 273.8%
68. Bosnia -- 271.8%
69. Swaziland -- 268.3%
70. Tunisia -- 267. 8%
71. Bolivia -- 267.4%
72. Cape Verde -- 265.1%
73. Kazakhstan -- 264.4%
74. Honduras -- 263.8%
75. Morocco -- 260.1%
76. Cameroon -- 259.0%
77. Senegal -- 258.0%
78. Uruguay -- 256.6%
79. Samoa -- 250.6%
80. Georgia -- 250.5%
81. Mali -- 250.5%
82. Romania -- 250.1%
83. Brazil -- 247.9%
84. Peru -- 239.7%
85. Costa Rica -- 235.7%
86. Mauritius -- 235.4%
87. Malaysia -- 235.2%
88. Kenya -- 235.2%
89. Jordan -- 233.3%
90. Nigeria -- 226.9%
91. Tanzania -- 223.7%
92. Suriname -- 222.5%
93. Latvia -- 218.0%
94. Albania -- 218.0%
95. Libya -- 215.9%
96. Serbia -- 214.4%
97. Montenegro -- 214.4%
98. Russia -- 213.9%
99. Guatemala -- 210.7%
100. Lithuania -- 210.3%
101. Slovakia -- 206.1%
102. Poland -- 205.2%
103. Iraq -- 202.4%
104. Zambia -- 198.7%
105. Belize -- 195.8%
106. Taiwan -- 194.8%
107. Benin -- 194.0%
108. Botswana -- 193.8%
109. Somalia -- 193.7%
110. Estonia -- 191.5%
111. El Salvador -- 189.5%
112. Kiribati -- 187.0%
113. Fiji -- 187.0%
114. Czech Republic -- 186.6%
115. Ecuador -- 186.4%
116. Angola -- 186.1%
117. Turkey -- 175.8%
118. Cote d'Ivoire -- 166.4%
119. Chile -- 164.3%
120. Barbados -- 162.4%
121. Oman -- 161.7%
122. Croatia -- 159.7%
123. Panama -- 156.7%
124. Mexico -- 153.5%
125. Hungary -- 153.3%
126. Maldives -- 153.0%
127. American Samoa -- 152.8%
128. Venezuela -- 152.8%
129. Malta -- 151.4%
130. Gabon -- 145.4%
131. Bahrain -- 144.4%
132. Northern Mariana Islands -- 142.1%
133. Trinidad/Tobago -- 139.1%
134. Dominica -- 137.6%
135. South Korea -- 137.4%
136. Israel -- 137.3%
137. Hong Kong -- 135.7%
138. Yemen -- 135.0%
139. Jamaica -- 133.5%
140. CAR -- 132.6%
141. Saudi Arabia -- 131.2%
142. Brunei -- 124.7%
143. Slovenia -- 122.9%
144. Micronesia -- 119.4%
145. UAE -- 118.0%
146. Portugal -- 117.8%
147. Singaore -- 114.4%
148. Greece -- 113.6%
149. Lebanon -- 110.0%
150. Comoros -- 109.7%
151. Cyprus -- 109.2%
152. New Zealand -- 107.8%
153. Canada -- 107.3%
154. San Marino -- 106.8%
155. East Timor -- 106.0%
156. Bahamas -- 105.6%
157. Saint Lucia -- 105.0%
158. Australia -- 103.7%
159. Virgin Islands -- 101.6%
160. Cuba -- 101.4%
161. Spain -- 101.4%
162. Macau -- 99.5%
163. Congo (Rep. of) -- 97.7%
164. Italy -- 97.5%
165. Luxembourg -- 97.3%
166. Grenada -- 96.9%
167. Isle of Man -- 93.5%
168. Belgium -- 92.0%
169. Austria -- 91.6%
170. Germany -- 90.8%
171. Guam -- 90.2%
172. Kuwait -- 89.8%
173. Djibouti -- 88.2%
174. Finland -- 87.9%
175. Ireland -- 87.6%
176. France -- 87.3%
177. Qatar -- 87.1%
178. Seychelles -- 86.7%
179. Japan -- 86.3%
180. Palau -- 85.9%
181. Netherlands -- 85.7%
182. UK -- 81.6%
183. Iceland -- 81.1%
184. Vanuatu -- 81.0%
185. Saint Vincent -- 79.9%
186. Marshall Islands -- 79.9%
187. Norway -- 79.5%
188. Denmark -- 77.8%
189. Sweden -- 77.1%
190. Niue -- 75.9%
191. Tonga -- 73.2%
192. Liechtenstein -- 71.8%
193. Switzerland -- 65.6%

The comedic role-playing game, Earthbound, has a character commenting a-la 100 Grand that if he discovered a sought-after diamond worth $1 million that he'd move to Japan and live it up. Given that this was in the mid-nineties, when Japan dominated the video game market even more so that it does today, it makes regional sense. But Western Europe is actually the least affordable destination. The Euro's appreciation against the dollar over the last few years has made this even more true. Of course, we're talking about current dollars, not earning potential. Like living conditions in general, the most affordable spots don't offer the greatest prospects (esepcially if you're of European descent--Zimbabwe is #2!).
China and India both offer prospective emigrants lots of bang for their buck (although Bangalore and northern India are, Shanghai and China's rough Western provinces, are both encompassed in the national estimates). Unfortunately, this is antithetical to the US' desire to retain the Asian brains it attracts. Instead, Indian and Chinese tech workers can apply for H1-B visas, live frugally stateside while working for a company like Microsoft, moving back home ten or fifteen years down the road to live like maharajas (the father of one of my brother's best friends did just that--I helped him load up the moving truck last summer).

What about cheap tropical islands? The Solomon Islands are chaotic, and hard to become naturalized in even if you wanted to. Cape Verde? It is a beautiful archipelago and a stable country by African standards. The fishing industry is said to be in an infantile stage of development.

Taiwan is attractive as well. Little crime or unemployment, an export-based economy with a huge trade surplus, and an intelligent population. The PRC looms, but continued trade across the Taiwan Strait means the nation's economic future is bright.

In the Occident? Maybe Hungary? Probably somewhere in the Anglosphere, although these countries seem the least concerned about retaining their cultures and economic competitiveness.

Notice Mexico. Many open-borders advocates try to take a humanitarian position, claiming that Mexico is a destitute place with a victimized population that is trying to flee from so their children (or the kids they'll have once they arrive) won't starve. But Mexico's isn't that poor. Mexicans enjoy a higher standard of living than most people on the planet.


Steve Sailer said...

It looks like you pretty much get what you pay for.

I guess Costa Rica at 235% looks like just about the best retirement bargain -- live at 4,000 feet, not too hot but not too thinnish air (which is important when you are old), stable government, fairly middle class society, lots of other yanquis to speak English with.

The strong showing of Costa Rica is an endorsement of your methodology, since the country has long been recognized as a retirement bargain.

The Republic of Congo at the same price as the U.S. sounds like the worst bargain.

BlueBerry Pick'n said...

wow. that's really interesting.

especially when we consider BUSH is buying land in PANAMA.

hum. makes you wonder, doesn't it? maybe all those old CANAL TOWNS will be worth something to live in when the cost of gas goes crazy higher...

ethics on the downside of PeakOil, so to speak. Maybe that's why New Orleans isn't being fixed, it'll be under water anyway, whether anyone believes Gore, or not.

but I digress, as to that point about Mexico's standard of living. Don't be thrown by older data, or by descriptive rather than more analytical studies.
Try this site... the fact is, EVERYONE Is getting squeezed.

Check out this study: L-Curve

while I don't dispute that the living is harsh everywhere, we both know that even within the BEST countries, it can get really scary in the street.

but man, most of us have NO IDEA how bad it can get. Hell, in NIGERIA there are guys with HYENAS you think I'm kidding.

Spread Love...
... but wear the Glove!

BlueBerry Pick'n
can be found @
"Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

al fin said...

Canada's new government has slowed the descent into PC hell just a little. Australia's Howard is generally on the side of western civilisation against the barbarian hordes.

C41, your post began discussing people moving east to shore up western civilisation, then shifted into the economics of slinking off to live in the third world. Your information is useful for the sake of comparison and argument, but practically speaking most people concerned about the survival of the west won't be moving to Costa Rica except as a last resort--after the deluge. By then, Costa Rica won't seem so rica.

crush41 said...


Well, I wanted to look strictly at economics. I was under the impression that East Asia was quite expensive, but that's mostly limited to Japan.

The Euro's ascension against the dollar has made the Old Continent an expensive place to be. Beneficially, that should entice more Europeans to come stateside, and we should do everything we can to facilitate such a move.

epicuria said...

So where are the Canary Islands? I suspect down at the bottom. Climate is key, and the Canary Islands have a climate ~best by test~

crush41 said...


The Canary Islands are owned by Spain, and the islands' economy is meshed with that of the rest of Spain's.

Like the US, there is of course going to be variance by geographic location in a country. Minnesotians, for example, enjoy the highest monetary standard of living in the US, while Hawaiins are at the bottom. I'd guess the Canary Islands (as most islands with ties to developed countries are quite expensive) are less than 100% on the scale (as Spain is just slightly more affordable than the US).

Anonymous said...

16. India -- 590.3%

should that be 509.3% or should India be in 9th position?

crush41 said...


It should have been 509.3%. That was a transmission error on my part and I've fixed it. Thanks for being so astute!

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Please Please make another list like this with 2010 data. I know that it is different now and this is the best format and most information I have been able to find on the internet. Thank you for this blog!

Audacious Epigone said...


I've recently done so using 2008 data. Please see here.