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GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS REPORT: United States Receives High Marks for Business Economy, but Health and Primary Education Rank Thirty-Fourth

"The United States confirms its position as the most competitive economy in the world," said Xavier Sala-i-Martin

Rebounding from a sixth place finish last year, the United States knocked Switzerland off of the top spot in the in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI). Of the twelve “pillars” that the report tracks, the United States ranks first in labor market efficiency, market size, and innovation but is thirty-fourth out of 131 countries in health and primary education. The top five countries in health and primary education are Finland, Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden.

The complete rankings are included in the Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008, which was released on October 31. The report is designed to capture the broad range of factors that are critical to driving productivity and competitiveness. It groups these factors into twelve pillars: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market sophistication, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation.

“The United States confirms its position as the most competitive economy in the world,” said Xavier Sala-i-Martin, an economics professor at Columbia University and coeditor of the report. “The efficiency of the country’s markets, the sophistication of its business community, the impressive capacity for technological innovation that exists within a first-rate system of universities and research centres [sic], all contribute to making the United States a highly competitive economy.”

Top 10 Countries by GCI


GCI Rank

GCI Score

United States
























United Kingdom







Among other notable countries, Korea (5.40) is eleventh, Canada (5.34) is thirteenth, China (4.57) is thirty-fourth, and India (4.33) is forty-eighth.

Ranking fifth, America’s higher education system fared much better than its primary education counterpart. Specifically, the nation received high marks for higher education enrollment and for the quality of its management schools. However, even at the postsecondary level, the United States has its weaknesses, ranking forty-fifth in quality of math and science education.

The report also examines the “most problematic factors for doing business” in the United States. Of the fourteen most problematic factors given, it lists tax rates first, tax regulations second, inefficient government bureaucracy third, inflation fourth, and an inadequately educated workforce fifth.

More information on the report is available at

Losing Our Edge: Are American Students Unprepared for the Global Economy?


On December 4, the Alliance for Excellent Education will partner with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Asia Society, the Business Roundtable, ED in ’08, and the National Governors Association to review the results of the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). One of the few worldwide assessments that directly compare the quality of educational outcomes internationally, PISA measures the capacity of fifteen-year-old students to apply what they have learned in the classroom in order to analyze, reason, and communicate effectively. Past PISA results have shown that American students are falling behind youths of other nations in achievement.

At the event, Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division at OECD’s Directorate for Education, will present the PISA results, including performance results in reading, mathematics, and science. He will also provide a special focus on students’ attitudes towards science and an analysis of the common elements of high-performing education systems. In October, Mr. Schleicher gave an excellent presentation, “Internationally Benchmarking Twenty-first Century Standards,” at the Alliance’s High School Policy Conference. Video of his PowerPoint presentation is available at

Further details on the PISA event, including RSVP information, are available at


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