• Visualizations
  • Iran vs USA: Stacking Up Economies, Populations & Militaries

Iran vs USA: Stacking Up Economies, Populations & Militaries

Ever since the Iranian Revolution in the ‘70s, the U.S. and Iran haven’t been on the best of terms. Even with the recent conflict abated, many questions arose about the impact globally should a broader problem arise.

Iran relies heavily on crude oil exports to the global marketplace. U.S. sanctions lay a heavy toll on Iran as they put more pressure on political changes. If a broader conflict were to break out, is Iran’s economy diverse enough to handle the burden, and what would the comparative militaries look like?

Iran vs USA

  • While Iran has more people in its military proportionally to its total population, the spending for the U.S. dwarfs Iran’s by over $600B.
  • However, Iran makes up for that with military conscription, with 0.69% of its population in armed services vs 0.415% in the U.S.
  • Even with the U.S. main export of refined petroleum and Iran’s being crude oil, Iran has nearly 5x the amount of oil reserves as the U.S.
  • Interestingly, both countries rely on imports of automobiles, with the U.S. largest suppliers being Japan, Canada, and Mexico.
  • When you compare GDP (PPP), U.S. services drive a GDP (PPP) that’s nearly 12x that of Iran’s.

It’s often not a surprise that the U.S. economy dwarfs most others in the world. Plus, U.S. military expenditure is one of the highest in the world. So how does that compare to the countries they come into conflict with like Iran? We wanted to compare the economies, militaries, and populations of the two countries to get a sense of the size both in terms of magnitude and relative to one another. Data from The World Bank, UN Comtrade, OEC, and the CIA helped us create the visualization that stacks up the countries side by side.

Iran relies heavily on crude oil exports for its economy, while the U.S. growth comes more from services. That puts Iran more at the mercy of global commodity pricing and sanctions from the U.S. Fracking technology and excess refinement capacity led the U.S. to become a major exporter of refined petroleum products. This has lead to a large difference in the sizes of the economies, not just in total, but per capita. The additional U.S. oil production capacity has given them further leverage over Iran. Plus, the U.S. has the ability to run much larger deficits at cheaper costs, allowing them additional funding for any needed expansion.

The U.S. economy holds a lot of sway globally given the size and impact on individual countries. Militarily, it spends significantly more than Iran, while maintaining a larger armed force. Being a top economy in the world gives the U.S. flexibility and leverage compared to Iran.

So can small countries like Iran compete with the U.S., or are they capped in their capabilities? Let us know your thoughts.

About the article