Each year, the Legatum Institute, a private research organization based in Dubai, gathers data from 110 nations containing more than 90 percent of the world's population and uses it to produce statistical comparisons of countries.
In late March, Legatum released its overall prosperity rankings for 2010. The list — topped by Norway and in which the United States placed tenth — was broken down into sub-categories, one of which was "personal freedom."
"The Personal Freedom Sub-Index assesses the effects of freedom of choice, expression, belief, and movement on a country's per capital GDP and the subjective wellbeing of its citizens. It also assesses how the levels of tolerance for both minorities and immigrants affect countries' economic growth and citizen satisfaction," Legatum explained on their website. [INFOGRAPHIC: A Day in the Life of the Average American]
"A strong empirical link exists between individuals' freedom to choose what to do, where to go, what to believe, and overall life satisfaction. There is also a strong link between the levels of tolerance within a society for ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity, and the overall satisfaction people enjoy within that society," they continued.
First place on the Personal Freedom Sub-Index went to Canada. Then came Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, and Iceland. The United States followed in ninth place. Belgium, Uruguay and Finland took tenth, eleventh and twelfth, respectively.
At the bottom of the list, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan placed 108th, 109th and 110th in terms of their citizens' personal freedom, respectively.
While some people may be surprised to find that the United States, the so-called "land of the free," ranked down at number nine for freedom, Legatum points out that the United States ranks the highest in that category among countries with populations greater than 125 million. In fact, of all the large countries, only the United States ranks among the top 10 in all sub-categories on the Prosperity Index.
For more information, visit the Legatum Prosperity Index website.