Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interesting World Statistics

Whether you like statistics, geography, anthropology, or world history, there is something in this video for you. If you happen to be interested in ALL of those things, then this video is an absolute "must-see". In this video, Hans Rosling of Sweden presents an amazing perspective of the development of 200 nations over the past 200 years in just 4 minutes. I'm not going to try to explain it - just watch it. Then I'll make a few comments afterwards.

There are no doubt many opinions as to the "why" and the "how" of the progress of these past 200 years. Some would use a video such as this to support their belief in humanism. Others would say, "Wow, look what capitalism has done for the world". Many Christians would claim this video shows that 200 years of missionary endeavors has helped to lift the standard of living and quality of life for the whole world. And for every proposed theory, there would certainly be a rebuttal. But one thing I am completely sure of is that some major data points were not included in this tremendous piece of research. I will mention just two:

1. Health and Wealth are certainly not the only two things on the rise. Sin, wickedness, crime, immorality, divorce, and many other things that would not exactly be considered "progress" are all on the rise right along with the increased wealth and the better health. The Bible says, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse..." (II Timothy 3:13). What's the point of living a long life if your life is filled with misery, disappointment, and regret? And what's the point of ever-increasing wealth if your life is still missing real peace and true joy?

2. No matter how good a nation progresses in the area of life expectancy, all life still ends eventually. Suppose a nation used to have a life expectancy of 45 years and 100 years later has a life expectancy of 65 years. Yes, that is progress. But raising the life expectancy by a few years is ultimately like trying to keep the tide from coming in. The Bible says, " is appointed unto man once to die..." (Hebrews 9:27).

But in spite of these important factors missing from this presentation (and in defense of Mr. Rosling, some things would be a little difficult to track even if you wanted to) I still found these statistics and the way in which they were presented to be fascinating. I watched it several times and I found myself wishing I knew which dot was Cambodia. Then a few days ago, much to my delight, I found out that the entire chart is available online and is interactive!

So I clicked on Cambodia, enabled the "trails" option, hit "play" and instantly saw 200 years of this country I love unfold before my eyes. Here are a few of the interesting things I found.

*From 1800 (the starting point for this chart) until 1944, the life expectancy never wavered from 35 years. It's hard for me to believe that there was no change (even slight) in the life expectancy for 144 years, so I will assume that they didn't have adequate stats for that period and simply left it where it was.

*More interesting to me than the lack of change in the life expectancy was what was happening in the average income during that same time period (1800-1944). While nearly the entire world was moving forward (some much more quickly than others), Cambodia moved steadily backwards. By 1944 only 5 countries in the world (all of them in Africa) where poorer than Cambodia!

*From 1944-1967 Cambodia made a steady ascent into more wealth and better health, but a dramatic turn for the worse started in 1968 and lasted for 10 years. This, of course, was the time of the civil war and subsequent Khmer Rouge regime. Sadly, Cambodia's life expectancy dropped to 33 years in 1976/77. The life expectancy for the rest of the world had risen dramatically by that time, thus Cambodia was tied with Timor-Leste for the lowest life expectancy in the whole world during those sad years.

*In 1976, when Cambodia was tied for the lowest life expectancy in the world, there was also only one other nation in the entire world that was poorer than Cambodia - Mozambique.

*In 1979 (the end of the Khmer Rouge) suddenly the line shoots up dramatically as over the next 20 years the life expectancy rose to 57 years! But on a graph like this, a steep vertical climb means one area is progressing while the other is staying the same. The area that was staying the same was the economic situation. In the 20 years after the Khmer Rouge, much progress in health, little progress in wealth.

*In 2000 (the year we arrived here), Cambodia was the poorest of all Asian countries, and only one Asian country (Timor-Leste) had a lower life expectancy.

*From 2003 to 2004 Cambodia jumped ahead economically about as far as they had in the previous ten years combined.

*In 2009, Cambodia went backwards financially for the first time in 10 years.

*Cambodia has certainly made progress in the areas of health and wealth. They now have a higher life expectancy (62 years) than nearly all of the Sub-Sahara African nations, Afghanistan, and Papua New Guinea. There are now many nations poorer than Cambodia (most are in Africa). There are only two Asian nations that are poorer than Cambodia - North Korea and Myanmar.

It was very interesting to me to see the journey that Cambodia has taken over the past 200 years. 

If you would like to check out any other country on this amazing interactive tool, go to and click on the link for "gapminderworld". Besides the 200-year tracking graph which I have discussed in this post, you can also change the settings to discover stats about population, literacy, employment, and many other things. I hope you enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to know about the ability to track individual nations. I've never checked into this video close enough to know that. This would be a good resource for someone working on a school project.
    I think that a video like this also gives some insight into the minds of humanists and why they attempt to solve the problems of the world in the way that they do.