How France Ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s Annual Best Countries List Is Super Interesting

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Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report released its annual country rankings. France fell from #9 to #10 (out of the 80 countries scored) in overall rankings in 2019.

“The influence France has on the world, both in the past and today, is difficult to overstate,” wrote U.S. News & World Report in its country summary. “Its reach extends around the globe through science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture.”

While the #10 ranking isn’t all that intriguing on its own, the category rankings within that contributed to the tenth place result are fascinating because the scoring of the criteria for the category rankings lays bare the state of affairs in the country.

Here’s a list of France’s 12 most interesting rankings on the U.S. News & World Report 2019 country ranking list.

#2 Cultural influence

Image: Screenshot from U.S. News & World Report best countries ranking 2019

Though France scored a near-perfect for prestigiousness and fashion, as well as trendiness, scoring a mediocre five for happiness no doubt dragged them to #2 below Italy’s #1. The low score in happiness only feeds into (or confirms) the stereotype that the French aren’t happy and love to complain.

#4 Rich heritage

Image: Screenshot from U.S. News & World Report best countries ranking 2019

France scored high across the board on the criteria of “culturally accessible, has a rich history, has great food and many cultural attractions.”

#5 Education

“Well-developed public education system, would consider attending university there and provides top quality education” are the criteria for the education ranking.

#6 Power

Image: Screenshot from U.S. News & World Report best countries ranking 2019

Though scoring high in international alliances (France is a founder of the United Nations, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, a member of the European Union, and a founding member of NATO), France scored low on military and leadership. Though French president Emmanuel Macron may have seemed like a saving grace relative to far-right Marine Le Pen, his approval ratings are quite low (like most other Fifth Republic French presidents). And despite low military power, their forces do, however, have a spectacular show of force during the annual Bastille Day parade.

#14 Green living

This rank was determined based on how much countries care about the environment, and are health conscious and innovative. From banning single-use plastic bags to expanding pedestrian areas, Paris phasing out non-electric cars, and the expansion of public transit, France is making impressive strides in sustainability.

#14 Women

Before anyone gets in a panic, this ranking doesn’t mean that France ranks #14 for best looking women. The country received its mid-tens ranking for women because it’s the #14 country for women to live in. The ranking was determined by concern for human rights, gender equality, income equality, progress and safety. The new gender and equality minister Marlène Schiappa has spearheaded new initiatives targeting street harassment and education for girls worldwide.

#14 Adventure

Image: Screenshot from U.S. News & World Report best countries ranking 2019

#15 Raising kids

The ranking criteria, determined by care for human rights, family-friendliness, gender equality, happiness, income equality, safety, and well-developed public education and health care systems, give France a spread of high and low scores. They have well-developed education and health care systems and care about human rights, but scored between a 4.0 and a 5.4 on happiness, income equality, and safety.

#16 Quality of life

Image: Screenshot from U.S. News & World Report best countries ranking 2019

Once again it’s France’s education and healthy systems that are boosting its score. It also has economic and political stability to elevate its quality of life rank, but affordability, income inequality and the job market drag its score down.

#17 Solo travel

France scored high on “culturally accessible,” ranked somewhere in the middle for “fun,” “friendly,” “pleasant climate,” and “safe.” Though it’s unknown where exactly they fell on the “scenic” scale, you’d imagine it’s high (come on, it’s beautiful).

#31 Open for business

Image: Screenshot from U.S. News & World Report best countries ranking 2019

The French who are sure that their country has corrupt and bureaucratic business practices are wrong: France received a 0/10 for corruption (Russia got an 8.4), and a 1.8 for bureaucratic (China got a 7). Transparency for government practices is not great at 3.8 (Denmark received a perfect 10). The things that the French are correct about are the favorable tax environment, or really lack thereof as represented the score of 0.3 (Luxembourg scored an 8.4, and they charge about a 1% tax on international business), and the (absence of) cheap manufacturing costs, which scored a 0 (China got a perfect 10).

#34 Study abroad

Skyrocketing from #64 in 2018 to #34 in 2019, students ranked France as a moderately appealing country to study abroad in, based on its cultural accessibility, number of cultural attractions, the quality of the education, how fun it is, and if they’d consider attending university there.

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