There are several sites available to let you compare your favourite nations to one another online. Each has its merits and specialties so if you don’t find what you want from one, try one of the others.
NationMaster – the one I found out about most recently – lets you look at statistics in hundreds of different categories. Earlier I found the similar Your Nation.com – which relies on rather old CIA Fact Book data (1998) – and the UN’s “Infonation” aimed particularly at schoolkids which has a somewhat eccentric navigation system and a shorter list of countries to compare. It’s a pity someone doesn’t make a comparative database like these but which is dynamically linked to the latest sources of information – these while interesting will become increasingly out of date.
If you want to dig deeper Offstats provides a database of links to official statistics from several countries across the Internet, but without the whizzy direct comparison engine.
One key measure missing is the UN’s ever-popular quality of life (“Human Development”) index (report / index in PDF form). Of course how you score a country depends on what you value – one could come up with a different ranking with different criteria – but it’s always interesting to see how different countries fare. Canada long valued its top position through much of the 1990s (it dropped to 8th this year – behind the US(!)) and I notice the EU is blowing its own trumpet with six of the top ten countries.
The State Department’s assessment of the cost of living in many world cities is also entertaining, though it seems to find most places more expensive to live in than Washington DC which suggests to me that the “basket” of goods and services they use to generate the index is a little skewed.
Thanks to Eszter for the NationMaster link