The 20th century has been termed the ‘American Century’ by pundits. There are plenty of good reasons for this notion such as having had the largest economy (this crown was gained around 1900 from Great Britain), the largest military by spend (China has many more soldiers), as well as the immigration champion.
I thought about this when I noticed that Nigeria has a population of almost 170 million, and Brazil about 200 million. The U.S. by the 2010 Census has roughly 309 million people. After China and India, the most populous countries are, in order, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia and Japan.
I grew up in a world where the U.S. population was #3 (as it is today) was a given, but long term Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria all are poised to have larger populations than the U.S. perhaps before 2100. With China’s economy also on pace to exceed that of the U.S. by 2016 (or thereabout) the U.S. is dropping in the categories of many world rankings. How will these developments impact the psyche of Americans? When I was a kid growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s the U.S. was the country that seemingly everyone wanted to visit and a good number wanted to call home.
The U.S. remains a popular destination for many global citizens (freedom does ring quite loudly) and that is not about to change. But as a proud American (well most of the time) I am wondering how it will feel when the U.S. is) no longer at or near the top – at least statistically speaking.
Being #4, #5 or #6 in population, being #2 in world economy – those are just numbers right? Yet I think it’s not insignificant that at least statistically speaking the U.S. will continue to drop down in many rankings (let’s not talk about education – an area that at one time was a source of U.S. pride but not as much these days) and there will be an impact felt in the way that Americans feel about themselves.
Can the U.S. lead from behind – at least as it pertains to statistics? Does it even matter?