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I've crashed quite a few birthday parties lately, which has led to me not only botching the lyrics and the cadence of each birthday song, but aso guessing how old everyone is I'm hanging out with. Today is the United States' 237th birthday. And while people often remark that America is pretty young compared to other countries, aren't they actually flattering the 22nd oldest country in the world?
I did some calculations in Excel, using independence dates provided on About.com, and found the average age of a country is about 158.78 years old. Now, before anyone throws a tizzy about what makes a country a country, about nations, tribes, civilizations, ethnic categories, or about my makeshift methodology, keep in mind, I simply assessed 195 countries based on their political sovereignty. That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right? Try this map:
The 158-year old average shouldn't be misconstrued as some prophetic measure for a country's life-expectancy. I can't easily tell you how long each one will last, sorry. There are a lot of factors at play in starting a new country and ending an old one, and that's another article altogether. But here are some interesting things I dug from this study:
- Due to British decolonization in 1960, there are 18 53-year old countries.
- The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gives us 16 22-year old countries.
- The middle children, Italy (152) and Liberia (166), come closest to the average age, but they are still in the antiques tier at 44th and 45th eldest.
- Or should we consider the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the true middle child? It is the median-aged country (August 13th, 1960), one of the 53-year olds, with half of all countries older than it, and half of all countries younger than it.
- South Sudan is the youngest, and going to be 2 on July 10th.
- Japan is the oldest, at 2,673, and it's "National Foundation Day" (February 11th, 660 BC) is a rough estimate of when its earliest emperor took the throne.
So, as you might be watching some fireworks tonight—brought to you by the second oldest country—and cheering that America will probably live forever, now you at least have a better idea of how long forever is.