Inspired by this Dilbert cartoon, for a bit of fun I decided to plot GDP as a percentage of national debt (from here, using IMF data) against mathematical ability for 15 years a while ago (from here). I kept it to European countries on the basis they would be at similar stages of development. Is poor mathematical competence in 2003 correlated with debt ridden nations 8 years later as Dogbert suggests?

Well, the results are shown below. Unsurprisingly, the answer in general is ‘no’. However, the three countries with the highest levels of national debt as a percentage of GDP (Portugal, Italy and Greece) also have nearly the worst ranks of mathematical ability. So perhaps Dogbert just has a limited market of those who are really bad at mathematics.

In case it isn’t obvious, this is just a bit of fun, not a serious proposition. Remember kids, correlation does not imply causality.

Correlation of mathematical ability and national debt as a % of GDP

 

The raw data is below for anyone interested. Countries not in Europe or without data in either source are excluded.


Country  Debt as % GDP Upper Rank Lower Rank Avg Rank
Luxembourg  20.85 22 24 23
Sweden  37.44 15 19 17
Latvia  37.77 25 28 26.5
Czech Republic  41.46 12 17 14.5
Denmark  46.43 13 17 15
Serbia  47.89 32 34 33
Finland  48.56 1 4 2.5
Switzerland  48.65 6 12 9
Norway  49.61 21 24 22.5
Poland  55.39 22 26 24
Netherlands  66.23 2 7 4.5
Spain  68.47 25 28 26.5
Austria  72.20 16 20 18
Hungary  80.45 22 27 24.5
Germany  81.51 17 21 19
France  86.26 14 18 16
Belgium  98.51 5 10 7.5
Iceland  99.19 13 16 14.5
Ireland  104.95 17 21 19
Portugal  106.79 29 31 30
Italy  120.11 29 31 30
Greece  160.81 32 33 32.5