Sex, Drugs, Weapons and Cash: China vs United States
Economic rivalry between the US and China has been well documented by the media in recent years, particularly since the global recession has taken hold of these two financial powerhouses with significant and sometimes shared consequences to both. And, while real GDP growth and foreign investment are two recognized indicators of which country may come out on top in the end, other less discussed factors like socioeconomic development and the informal economy exist as compelling forces that hold a fair amount of influence over a particularly country’s rise. This post is an homage to these powerful shadows and draws comparisons based on the latest available and relevant data, drawing from 2007-2008 figures in most cases. A few points to note: different sources often cite dissimilar numbers; this chart relies on the most widely cited estimates from what are considered to be, in development economics, trustworthy agencies. For a few topics, like sex work, I could not find credible data collected within the last five years. Therefore, the estimate on US sex worker population dates back to the 1990s. All monetary values are in USD. Finally, as explained following this comparison, numbers lie sometimes…
|Life expectancy at birth-male||72||75|
|Life expectancy at birth- female||75||80|
|Infant mortality rate (2005-2010 projection)||32/1,000 live births||6.86/1,000 live births|
|Condom sales||$530 million||***|
|Average price for a pack of condoms||$4.50 (Shanghai)||$14.50 (New York)|
|Female sex worker population||1 to 10 million||1 million|
|Male sex worker population||***||***|
|Population living with HIV||700,000||1.1 Million|
|Annual number of deaths from AIDS||10,000 (extrapolated from Jan.-Sept. 2008)||12,113|
|Number of adults with genital herpes virus||***||45 million|
|Incidence of syphilis||5.3 per 100,000||2.7 per 100,000|
|% of drug addicts, total population||0.054%||2.9%|
|Population of tobacco smokers||350 million||43.4 million|
|Annual tobacco-related deaths||1 million||443,000|
|Annual DUI-related fatalities||***||11,773|
|Annual alcohol consumption per capita||1.4 gallons||2.18 gallons|
|% of population overweight (by individual country standards)||22.8%||35.7%|
|% population with alcohol dependence over a lifetime||***||12%|
|Seizures of heroin and morphine in kg equivalents||4,759||2,447|
|Seizures of methamphetamines in metric tons||74.10||34.94|
|% total pop. using any illicit drug within 1 month||***||8.3%|
|Migrant Worker Population
(definitions vary between countries)
|Population of millionaires
(more than $1M USD in assets)
|Percent of population below the poverty line
(definitions vary between countries; dependent on individual country standards)
|Reported unemployment rate||4.2%||9.5%|
|Annual Military Spending||$122 billion||$711 billion|
|Informal economy in % of GNP||13.1%||9%|
|Counterfeits as % of GDP||8%||***|
|Crime and Time|
|Population of adults in prison (incarcerated)||1.5 million||2.3 million|
|Number of executions||at least 1718||37|
|Number of inmates on death row||at least 7003||at least 111|
|Total Annual Recorded Rapes||35,819||89,110|
|Total Annual Estimated Suicides||250,000-300,000||32,000|
|Total Annual Intentional Homicide||2.36 per 100,000||5.8 per 100,000|
***indicates data available is unreliable or data could not be found
Where the US Falls Short:
- Annual intentional homicide rates and recorded instances of rape in the United States are more than double that of China’s.
- The US prison population reflects high rates of violence, with one in every 99.1 adults behind bars. According to official estimates, China’s number of prisoners comes in at a distant second.
- Who the heck can afford a pack of condoms in NYC, at $14.50 for a pack of 12! This figure is, in fact, accurate.
- New HIV cases in the US continue to rise and, as Reuters reports, nearly half of HIV-positive US adolescents and young adults are unaware of their infection. It should be noted that China’s HIV transmission rate is also on the rise, but that the country appears to be taking a more proactive approach to what is still a deadly, incurable and lifelong disease. (If you’d like to read more on why China’s doing a better job in the fight against HIV, I recommend checking out Elizabeth Pisani’s book, The Wisdom of Whores. Or, take me out to coffee and I’ll tell you, based on my own research).
- US substance abuse and drug addiction statistics are abysmal; ditto with obesity. As the saying goes, bad habits are hard to break.
- With annual military spending of $711 billion, it is more than apparent that the US is ready for a fight. That could be a good thing…or a bad thing.
Where China Falls Short:
- While it should come as no surprise, China’s combined number of executions and inmates on death row is always an alarming statistic.
- China’s, infant mortality rate at 32/1,000 live births is a far grimmer ratio than we find in the US, but still lower than the global infant mortality rate, estimated by the United Nations at 49.4/1,000 live births.
- With 350 million smokers (including 15 million teenage smokers) and a million tobacco related deaths annually, China’s cigarette industry is on fire and a heck of a lot of people are getting burned.
- It’s official, Americans love their drugs. However, in regard to seizures of morphine, heroin and methamphetamines, China could be deemed an enabler.
- With 8% of GDP tied up in an illegal industry- counterfeits- and a total informal economy representing 13% of GNP, China’s business in fakes is a very real problem.
- In comparison to the US, China is contending with nearly ten times more suicide fatalities each year, averaging at about 250,000-300,000 people annually taking their own lives. And, whereas more men than women commit suicide in the US, approximately 150,000 rural women in China commit suicide each year.
Numbers Lie (Sometimes):Statistics are tricky business, particularly when they involve crime, unemployment, and the shadow economy:
- Just a few years ago, it was pretty darn difficult to make an accurate assessment of the number of female sex workers (FSW) and estimates have varied greatly, from 100,000- 1 million in the US and 1 million to 10 million in China, respectively. With greater numbers of prostitutes abandoning the streets and brothels to open virtual shops and outcall services online, and more women treating the sale of sex as a part-time gig, it is nearly impossible to pin down a ballpark figure. If I had to make a guess, I’d estimate that the number of women who currently engage in the trade of sex for money exceeds highest given estimates.
- Although China’s official statistics cite a 4.2 percent unemployment rate at the end of 2008, that figure does not include workers employed in the informal economy (for example, migrants) people who did not file for unemployment, rural unemployed workers, and those who were otherwise ineligible to file for unemployment. In other words, that 4.2 percent figure only accounts for urban workers who were registered to receive unemployment benefits and quadrupling China’s official statistic would probably give you a more accurate assessment of the current unemployment rate. US labor statistics are mildly similar and do not account for workers in the informal economy and those who are otherwise ineligible to collect unemployment. Real unemployment rates in the US are notoriously understated, although some highly qualified economists (who may have never had the pleasure of bussing tables or picking tobacco, but that’s another story) would disagree with me. Feel free to do the same.
- In terms of percentage of families living below the poverty line, the following is a chart of 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia:
Persons in Family Poverty Guideline 1 $10,830 2 14,570 3 18,310 4 22,050 5 25,790 6 29,530 7 33,270 8 37,010
- Finally, people engaged in illicit, informal or otherwise unsavory activities prefer to stay under the radar…
Last I checked, China’s poverty guideline was US$85 a year per capita net income. Please let me know if this figure has been increased…exponentially. Otherwise, I think I’ve made my point. If the poverty line itself is inaccurate, then the percentage of families living below the poverty line is inaccurate. And, even if the poverty line is “accurate,” portrayals of poverty as guided by statistics are still inaccurate. I recently read that the majority of families in the US who are considered to be below the “poverty” level own two TVs. Who knows if that’s true. Poverty, on a global level, is subjective.
Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History
Bureau of Justice Statistics- Prisoners in 2007
Calculating China’s Unemployment Rate
CDC AIDS and HIV
CDC Illegal Drug Use in the US
CDC Recent Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States
China Has More Millionaires Than UK for First Time
China Joins the Global War on Smoking
China’s Internal Migrants
China’s Suicide Rate Soaring
CIA- The World Factbook: China
CIA- The World Factbook: United States
Competition Policy and the Informal Economy
Condom Prices Around the World
Counterfeiting and China’s Economic Development
Death Sentences and Executions in 2008
Global Burden of Armed Violence Report
Hiding in the Shadows: the Growth of the Underground Economy
Narcotics Control in China
New Highway Fatality Data Shows 1268 Fewer Families Devastated by Drunk Driving in 2008
Oldest Profession Flourishes in China
Overall Estimate of People Living With HIV in the US Grows
Prevalence, Correlates, Disability and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse in the US
Primary and Secondary Syphilis, United States
Prostitution in the United States: The Statistics
Research Report on China’s Condom Market, 2009
Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.
Slightly Lower Adult Smoking Rates
Smoking on Very Slow Decline in US
Statistics About Overweight
Suicide Facts at a Glance
Syphilis in China: the Great Comeback
Tackling Drug Addiction
Tobacco Burden Facts- China
Too Little, Too Late as China’s AIDS Death Rate Explodes
UN Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems 1998-2000
UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic
UNESCAP Projections of Infant Mortality Rates 2000-2005 and 2005-2010
UNODC World Drug Report 2009
US Prisons Hits New High: 1 in 100 Adults Jailed
US Stocks Continue Weak Amid Sagging Hopes for Economy
WHO World Health Statistics 2008
World Military Spending- Global Issues Blog
World Wealth Report 2008
Have a statistic or updated information to add? A question about the data? Thoughts on this US-China comparison? Have your say in the comments section.