The Global History of Wealth and Health in 30 Seconds

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Gapminder GraphHere’s a fascinating animated graph from Gapminder that captures the global history of income and life expectancy: It’s a cool way to see what’s happened to the world economically in the last 200 years.  Click on the link and you can watch countries all over the world as they develop, stagnate or decline.  The graph captures global financial and health crises, and you can see how over time the most prosperous countries distance themselves from the rest.

For the nerdy people that are reading this, you can use a logarithmic or linear view of the chart, view the data in a spreadsheet and search a whole pile of other indicators.  I know that because I did it.  Okay, I’m a bit nerdy, but not Comicon or LARPing nerdy, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But you may be wondering why I’m posting it on a site devoted to art from Congo.  When you play the animation, click on “Congo, Dem. Rep.” in the list of country choices on the right column and watch where it ends up.  Most of Africa is disproportionately represented on the low end of the chart, and Congo is (spoiler alert) at the very bottom.  Part of the tragedy is that up until the mid 1970s Congo was moving in the right direction.  30 years of war and rebellion destroyed opportunities and progress.  But it’s not all grim.  Since the early 2000s Congo has been recovering.  From my visit in 2005 to my visit in 2013 I saw improvements in infrastructure and development.  That the country could have significant improvement and still be at the bottom of the charts shows how difficult things have been for Congo.

The chart also shows the value of peace and a stable government.  Those countries tend to be represented on the right side of the graph.  Also, you can watch what happens when that peace gets interrupted, as most of the world take a lifespan dip during WWI.

Finally, for those who like to proclaim that the US is number 1, according to this chart it’s about number 8 in income and 28 in life expectancy.  Time to stop supersizing the french fries at the drive through.  But it’s home, I like it here, and we can call it number 1 in our hearts.  Sure, Macau has a longer lifespan and higher income, but would you really want to live in the Chinese version of the Las Vegas strip?  Actually, that sounds kind of fun, but I don’t plan on moving any time soon.

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