Viet Nam’s GDP & Study in the USA

Here are some graphs that I use in presentations to graphically illustrate Viet Nam’s meteoric economic rise in the past decade and then some.  The take-off phase began with my arrival in 2005, a mere coincidence, and perhaps an example of a word I often associate with Viet Nam, serendipity

The icing on the cake came in the form of a recent official report that revealed Viet Nam’s economy grew at the fastest rate in a decade, slightly above the government target of 6.7% and considerably higher than the 6.21% for 2016.  Much of the growth was driven by the agriculture, seafood and forestry sectors, according to the government’s General Statistics Office (GSO).

One thing to keep in mind, and that I never tire of mentioning, is that GDP growth doesn’t tell the whole story, much of which is occurring beneath the surface.  Since GDP is the total value of everything produced by all the people and companies in the country, both domestic and foreign, it doesn’t reflect total income and therefore total ability to pay. This doesn’t mean that all of this activity is illegal – some of it is the result of corruption, petty and massive – only that it is not factored into the aggregate GDP figure.

NOTE:  GDP data differ between different sources, i.e., the World Bank vs. the International Monetary Fund. 

Source:  World Bank
Source:  IMF

Not surprisingly, economic growth is closely linked to ability to pay, which is why the number of Vietnamese students studying overseas mirrors their country’s economic ascendancy. 

Compare the enrollment trends in the US below with the GDP graphs above.  Note:  Open Doors data are from fall 2016 and only for higher education.  According to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update from May 2017, there are 30,279 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels, mostly higher education.

enrollment trends
Source:  IIE Open Doors Reports

It is estimated that Vietnamese parents spend $3 billion on overseas study expenses for their children, a number commonly used in the media, but the actual figure is probably considerably higher.  Consider that families are already spending nearly $1 billion, rounded up, in the US alone.