According to a report released in September 2015, the United States ranks 16th out of 157 countries and territories included in the Economic Freedom of the World: 2015 Annual Report, co-authored by West Virginia University’s Joshua Hall, assistant associate professor of economics and co-director of the Center for Free Enterprise at the College of Business and Economics, was released by Canada’s Fraser Institute and is based on data from 2013 (the most recent data available).

While the United States ranked 16th in this report, the country was ranked second in the world as recently as the year 2000. The report measures the economic freedom (levels of personal choice, ability to enter markets, security of privately-owned property, rule of law, etc.) by analyzing the policies and institutions of 157 countries and territories.

“From 1970 to 2000, the United States was usually in the top three countries in the world in terms of economic freedom – and has declined precipitously, especially in the areas of legal system and protection of property rights, freedom to trade internationally and regulation,” Hall said. “With dozens of studies showing higher levels of economic freedom associated with economic growth, this decline does not bode well for the future prosperity of West Virginia and the United States.”

Hong Kong topped the index, continuing its streak of number one rankings, followed by Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Jordan, Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom and Chile, which tied for 10th. The 10 lowest-ranked countries are Angola, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Argentina, Syria, Chad, Libya, Republic of Congo and Venezuela. Globally, the average economic freedom score rose slightly to 6.86 out of 10 from 6.84 in 2014.

According to research in top peer-reviewed journals, people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties and longer lives. For example, countries in the top 25 percent of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $38,601 in 2013, compared to $6,986 for the bottom 25 percent of nations. The average income in 2013 of the poorest 10 percent in the most economically-free countries ($9,881) dwarfed the overall average income in the least free countries ($1,629) – and life expectancy is 80.1 years in the top quartile of countries compared to 63.1 years in the bottom quartile.

About the Economic Freedom Index
The Economic Freedom of the World reports measure the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries support economic freedom. The 2015 report was prepared by James Gwartney of Florida State University; Robert A. Lawson of Southern Methodist University; and Joshua Hall of West Virginia University. The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in 90 nations and territories. See the full report at

To learn more about the study, contact Joshua Hall at For more information on the College of Business and Economics, visit



CONTACT: Patrick Gregg, WVU College of Business and Economics

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