Wharton Says America’s the (Fourth) Best Country in the World

Biz school joins U.S. News to rank countries. The U.S. isn't quite on top.
wharton david reibstein rankings

America, left. Wharton’s David Reibstein, right.

The United States is the world’s most powerful and most influential country. But is it the best country? Nope, a new report says: The honor belongs to Germany.

Or at least that’s how U.S. News & World Report sees things in its new “Best Countries” rankings, released Wednesday. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania joined the magazine and WPP in determining the rankings. Sixty countries were included in the rankings; Canada and the U.K. were also ahead of the U.S. in the overall rankings.

“Countries need to be concerned about their brands, because it has an impact on the economy of the country just the same as it does firms,” David Reibstein, a Wharton marketing professor, said in a video released with the rankings. “That economic value comes by tourism, foreign direct investment, willingness to buy goods through trade. There’s an economic return to a nation’s brand.”

So why isn’t the United States on top?

Despite the strong scores in categories of “power” and “influence,” the rankings suggest we’re not such a fun place to be. We ranked a middling 27th in the “adventure” category — mostly, it seems, because of a terribly dismal score regarding American sexiness — and, even worse, ranked 33rd in the “best countries to invest in,” a ranking based, among other factors, in a country’s tax environment and the skill of its workforce.

In an article for U.S. News, Reibstein said most people won’t agree with their nation’s rankings — and the rankings are necessarily subjective. “The ratings are not a reflection of objective dimensions, but rather how the country is subjectively perceived by a large sample of residents, business decision makers, and the educated elite of other counties,” he wrote.

That’s not to say, however, that the rankings don’t matter: “It is an issue beyond national pride. A nation’s brand affects its economy. It matters what others think about us.”