2014 Legatum Prosperity Index™ ranks 142 countries in the world in eight categories including economic success, opportunity, health, and personal freedom.

The 2014 Prosperity Index measures a set of eight categories that reveal how nations perform both economically and in vital areas of education, health, personal freedom, safety & security, entrepreneurship, and more. The Index covers 142 countries in the world, accounting for 96 per cent of the world’s population and 99 per cent of global GDP making it the most comprehensive tool of its kind.

Norway finishes highest on the annual Prosperity Index for the sixth year in a row and retains its place in 2014 due to its high ranking in the Economy (3rd), Health (5th), Education (5th), Governance (7th), and Personal Freedom (2nd) sub-indices. Switzerland is ranked 2nd in the Index for the second year in a row while New Zealand has risen from fifth to third since last year. The UK is the most prosperous of all the leading major EU nations, coming ahead of Germany (14th), France (21st), Spain (26th) and Italy (37th).

The least prosperous countries are predominantly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with the Central African Republic bottom of the rankings, followed by Chad and Congo (DR). The lack of good quality healthcare and personal freedom combined with poor economic performance means that many sub-Saharan countries are ranked close to the bottom of the Index. Sierra Leone – the worst-affected country of the recent Ebola outbreak – is the worst performing country on the Health sub-Index.

The 5 most prosperous countries       

The 5 least prosperous countries
1. Norway
1. Central African Republic
2. Switzerland 2. Chad
3. New Zealand 3. Congo (DR)
4. Denmark 4. Burundi
5. Canada 5. Yemen

The Index shows that freer, more socially cohesive and well-governed countries recovered from the financial crash better than the rest. Data from the Index also show that prosperity is positively correlated with mobility and opportunity. Simply put, the most prosperous countries are those that provide opportunities to their citizens and where social mobility is high.  
Other interesting findings from the report include:

  • New Zealand is the highest climber at 3rd on the Prosperity Index. The resurgence of the economy has seen it rise on the Economy sub-index, from 27th in 2012 to its highest ever rank - 15th - in 2014. However, New Zealand’s success is also driven by strong personal freedom and social capital. New Zealand is number one on the Personal Freedom sub-index.
  • The UK has emerged as a world leader for entrepreneurship. It has the third-lowest business start-up costs in the world and benefits from a strong internet infrastructure. The UK has always ranked in the top 10 in the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity sub-index, and places 8th in this category in 2014.
  • China continues to climb up the Economy sub-index, and now ranks 6th in the world on this measure. However, China’s overall Prosperity Index rank (54th) is brought down by poor performances on the Personal Freedom sub-index (117th) and the Safety & Security sub-index (97th).
  • The United States is no longer perceived to be the ‘land of the free’. While the economy has improved as result of the fall in unemployment and an uplift in economic sentiment, the US places 21st on the Personal Freedom sub-index, trailing Canada (5th), Uruguay (8th) and Costa Rica (15th). The data show that the US has also become less tolerant of ethnic minorities and immigrants over the last six years.
  • Russia is the worst performing country in Europe this year, falling seven places on the Prosperity Index to 68th. This is largely due to their rankings in governance (113th) and personal freedom (124th).
  • Venezuela has declined the most of any country this year, falling 22 places to 100th on the Index. This is a result of a decline of 44 places on the Economy sub-Index, a decline of 24 places on the Personal Freedom sub-Index and a fall of 26 places on the Social Capital sub-Index.
  • Sierra Leone is the worst performing country on the Health sub-index and sub-Saharan African countries make up nine of the bottom 10 countries on this sub-index. The health systems in the majority of countries in the region are underdeveloped and ill-prepared to face serious threats to public health, such as the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

James Barty, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute, said:

“Prosperity is not just about having a strong economy, it is about having great education, healthcare, and freedom to choose among other things. Norway tops our index, helped by its economy but also by strong social values and success in education and health.  New Zealand is the highest climber, helped by a strong economy but also by personal freedom and social capital.

“The Prosperity Index shows that countries that have recovered faster from the financial crash are those where social bonds between people create trust, compassion and tolerance, where individual liberty is protected and where the rule of law is upheld. Germany, the UK and Canada showed strength in these areas, while Italy, Spain and Greece all performed poorly.”

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:

“Today’s report by the Legatum Institute which shows the UK as the most prosperous major EU country provides further international support for the government’s long term economic plan. Thanks to the difficult decisions we have taken to deliver economic security and control the public finances we have moved three places up the global rankings. It is fantastic to see Britain leading the way for entrepreneurship, personal freedom, health and education.”


Notes to Editors

1. The full report is available here, alternatively, the full set of data and tables is available at www.prosperity.com.

Media Enquiries

For more information or to arrange an interview with James Barty, Senior Adviser, please contact: 

Cristina Odone, Director of Communications

Ph: +44 (0) 207 148 5425 / E: Cristina Odone

Or directly:

James Barty, Senior Adviser, Prosperity Index

Ph: +44 (0) 7825 769 096 / E: James Barty

About the Legatum Institute Foundation

The Legatum Institute seeks to generate and advance the ideas that help people lead more prosperous lives. For more information please go to www.li.com and www.prosperity.com.