The chart below may not be strictly a “Wall Street” creation, but it does purport to provide some economic “insight.” More importantly, it is yet another example of an inappropriate, and hence likely misleading, comparison. I have talked about some of these in past gibberish, but the fundamental principle is the same. It is wrong to compare totals with rates. Worse than comparing apples to oranges, it is like comparing the number of apples to how many oranges each tree produces.

The chart appeared while the recent Olympics were still in progress, so the numbers of medals won by each country will be higher than shown. I suppose it was trying to point out that the number of medals won by a country had very little, if anything, to do with how rich the country is as measured by GDP per capita. Some “poorer” countries such as China and Russia have won quite a few medals while some wealthier ones such as Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland have won very few.

It doesn’t take much brain power to realize that the larger countries with more athletes are going to win more medals than the smaller ones. I should point out that another chart on the site showed countries’ number of medals won per participant, which is a valid measure because it compares totals to totals.

One possibly interesting feature of the chart is the relative GDP per capita. Switzerland is by far the highest, followed by Australia, Denmark, and Sweden. The U.S. appears to be next, slightly above several other “developed” nations.

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