Have you ever see the 1985 movie Rocky IV? That movie could easily have had the subheading: ‘America vs Russia’. The story depicts two boxers duking it out: America’s Rocky Balboa played by Sylvester Stallone, and the giant Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren. It came out 6 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and was, according to some skeptics, a blatant propaganda movie as much as it was an exhilarating sports movie. A fight between a despicable Russian, pumped-up on steroids, hooked-up to machines, and the simple, good-hearted American going back to nature to train for the fight. The message was clear: it was good against evil, and in 1985 such a movie was a powerful thing. Things have changed now, but you could say some competition, or fear, still exists between the two powerful nations. We will explore those changes in this episode of the Infographics Show, the Average American vs the Average Russian.

Let’s first give some historical background on these two nations. We’ll start with the eldest, Russia. In the 9th century, the East Slavic state of Kievan Rus’ was formed, which combined parts of what we know today as Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. The expansion of Russia didn’t happen overnight, and much of it occurred during the 17th century. From the time of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century, Russia had become a huge empire. In 1914, its population was 170 million, a number that would soon be denuded by the fallout of communist uprisings, a typhus pandemic, and of course those that were lost to the German and Austrian armies. The Soviet Union was formed in 1922 by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party on the principles of communist ideology. This ideology encompassed woman’s rights, atheism, and was against consumerism. It also later began to encompass summary executions, suppression of the arts and free-thinking, as well as debilitating surveillance measures. At the time of its downfall in 1991, the USSR had a total population of 293 million. Russia’s population today is 143,369,000.

The United States of America was formed when 13 colonies declared their independence from the United Kingdom on July 4th, 1776. It’s thought those colonies had a total population of around 2.5 million people, most of whom had European ancestry, including English, Scottish, Irish, Scots-Irish, German, French, Dutch, and African, although many of the Africans were slaves. Religion was a mixed bag, with most people being either Puritan, Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Quaker, or Lutheran. America quickly grew in size and stature, almost hitting 100 million in 1914, and at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. was home to 253 million people. Today that population has swelled to 325 million.

What about the Russians and Americans of today? Not many American folks today identify with being Puritan, but next to some other developed western nations, the USA is still fairly devout. Christianity is the biggest religion, with numerous denominations covering about 70.6 percent of the population, according to Pew Research. Almost all the rest of the people said they were “nothing”, atheist or agnostic, with Jews only making up about 2 percent of the population and Muslims just 0.9 percent. Buddhist and Hindus were said to make up 0.7 percent of the population each.

75% of the Russian population belong to the Orthodox Christian denomination, 5 percent are Muslim, and 1 percent belong to the faiths of Judaism, Protestantism, and Buddhism. According to the same Russian survey, 8 percent of Russians say they are Atheist.

Let’s take a look at the bodies of our two populations. A Western stereotype of Russia is that the country is home to a lot of large, strong people, perhaps embodied by the aforementioned fictional boxer, Ivan Drago, who was actually played by a Swede. Well, there is some truth to the big Russian given that the average height of a man in the country is 5 foot 10 (177 cm). The average Russian woman’s height is 5 foot 4 1/2 (164.1 cm). The average height for an American man is slightly less at 5 foot 9 or 5 foot 9 and a half, depending on the source. In America the average woman is 5 foot 4 (163.1 cm).

As for weight, the average weight in Russia for a man is about 168.8 pounds (76.7 kilograms) and for a Russian woman 160.2 pounds (72.7 kilograms). According to one Russian media source, the country, like many others, is presently experiencing more obesity, with about 30 percent of its citizens being on the wrong end of the scale. The same article cited a study that said after Mexico and the U.S., Russia is spending the largest sum of money on treating diseases related to obesity.

We know from our other shows that America is leading the developed world in terms of obesity, with the average weight for a man being about 195.5 pounds (88.6 kilos), according to the Center for Disease Control. The average weight for a woman is 166.2 pounds (75.3 kilos).

When starting out in life, who has it easier? According to the U.S’s National Center for Education Statistics, 4 out of 5 of all Americans get through high school and come out with a diploma. Asian Americans do best of all in terms of actually graduating, followed by white, Hispanic, black, and last, Native American. According to an article in the Atlantic, about 66 percent of those graduates will immediately enroll at a university.  Almost 90 percent of American children attend free public schools, 7 percent pay for private schools, and 3 percent are home schooled. The U.S. budget for education is around 59 billion dollars for 2018, a cut of $9.2 billion in 2017. More than 40 percent of people will attain a 4-year university degree in the U.S. according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Many young folks in the U.S. will take a gap year and travel abroad. In 2016, a study by the American Gap Association revealed that this gap year was beneficial to 97 or 98 percent of young people in terms of helping them develop.

According to Bloomberg, Russia has the third highest level of secondary education in the world, with 54 percent of people attending university, according to OECD. Class sizes are small, and that’s why Russia has one of best literacy rates in the world at 98 percent – slightly higher than the 97.9 percent of the USA. High school is free, but what’s good for students is they get out of school at 1 or 2 pm (U.S. students study longer hours). Russia is credited for having short days for students but good results overall. Private schooling is not too common, unless students go to an International school. Russia also has the third highest university graduation rate in the world at 55 percent, only behind South Korea and Canada. According to a student loans website, Russians can expect to owe in the region of $25,000 after completing university, while in the U.S. the Class of 2016 graduates owed on average about $37,172 each.

What about after school? Americans have one of the highest average salaries in the world at $4,993 a month (gross), although the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour. According to the CIA Factbook, about 15.1 percent of Americans live in relative poverty. Trading Economics states that in 2017 the average Russian salary is $694 (minimum 103 dollars) a month. While Russia has plenty of billionaires – 96 behind the USA’s 595 according to Forbes – the Guardian reports that as of 2016 more Russians are living in poverty than the 13.1 percent CIA Factbook statistic given for 2013. This was due to an economic crisis that started in 2014. The cost of a Big Mac in Russia according to the Big Mac Index is 2.05 dollars, and in the U.S. the average cost is $5.06. Looking at a comparison of costs compiled by Nationmaster, Russia is much cheaper, but the people have less purchasing power. Perhaps this is one reason you seem to find more American gap year students than Russian students drinking from buckets on exotic beaches under a full moon. Still, for a rich country America is the worst of all when it comes to spreading that wealth around, according to a 2015 report in Fortune magazine. Incidentally, the latest global standard of living index, based on basic needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity, has neither of these countries placed in the top ten. Those spots are mostly taken by European countries, except for Canada, Australia and New Zealand. GDP alone is by no means the sole barometer of social progress.  

Americans work on average 34.4 hours per week when in full-time employment, and don’t have any right to vacation days by law other than 10 public holidays. CNN reports that Russians on average work slightly more hours – 200 more a year than Americans – but do get 28 days of paid vacation by law, as well as 9 public holidays. All Russians get free healthcare provided by the government, and as you’ll know from our other shows, getting sick in America could bankrupt a family.

Outside education and making money, in the USA about 6.8 per 1000 people got married in 2016 – the statistic includes all people in the USA in one year. Births per woman in the U.S. is 1.84 on average. American men can expect to live to 77.1 and American women 81.9.

In Russia, the marriage rate is 9.2 per 1,000 in one year and the divorce rate half of that – it’s the same in the U.S. On average Russian women have 1.7 children. Life expectancy for men in Russia is 64.7 and for women 76.3. The Guardian reports that this big difference in life expectancy between the genders is due to a large percentage of Russian men dying before they reach 55. The reason the article gives? Vodka.

So, where would you rather live and why? Let us know in the comments! 



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