Dataviz: 200 years' worth of economic and health data from 200 countries

From an episode of BBC Four's The Joy of Stats, watch as charming and animated Swedish statistician Hans Rosling runs through 200 years' worth of augmented-reality data-visualization telling the story of economic development and health in 200 countries over 200 years in a mere four minutes.

Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four (Thanks, Alan!)


  1. Ok, this guy makes MAKING statistics look cool. Especially at the end, the little “Pretty neat, huh?”

    I wonder if the average income was adjusted for average cost of living as well. I wonder how much the graph would change if it were/weren’t, if at all.

    1. Yep, i found myself thinking that the lifespan change had more to do with (re)discovering basic sanitation and such then any real income change. And i do wonder if those numbers have taken into account issues like inflation. That is the real problem with statistic, it is as much about what you leave out as what you put in.

      Oh, and did anyone else notice the european nation that seemed to drop of the graph for a moment? I guess it was either Germany or Russia in the middle of WW2, going negative on lifespan from all the war losses (i think there was some others doing similar dips at various points, but that one really stood out).

      1. Some drop off due to inadequate data collection. I seem to remember him mentioning this on one of the TED talks.

  2. I just watched the Joy of Stats last night. It is a great introduction to statistics. I’m passing it on to my brother for his class. Its amazing how few adults have the tools to interpret the statistics they see quoted around them every day.

  3. Here is my critique. Although I think this guy does wonderful work.

    Unlike his TED talk, in this one he showed us the specific limitation to his analysis: when a country is split into its components, the stark differences between wealthy, urban centers and poor, rural areas comes into clear view.

    This is known as ecological fallacy in our line of work. Ecological fallacy means that the whole is representative of the individual, when the individual may or may not have the characteristics of the whole.

    So, while China and the US are swept up to the top left corner, Guanzhou and Mississippi may actually be FALLING. The individual in this motion chart is not adequately represented by the summary measure.

    As much as his chart shows improvement in health and prosperity, it also shows *improvement in reporting.* Wise countries like China know how to spin their reporting so that the good parts show and the bad parts don’t. As well as less malicious improvements, such as data actually being collected in poor nations.

    Overall, it is fascinating to see the improvements at a 40,000 foot level. I encourage more independent collection and verification of the data. And while we’re at it, we should design systems to take measurements as close to the per capita level as possible.

    1. “And while we’re at it, we should design systems to take measurements as close to the per capita level as possible.”


      Totalitarian if real-time and detailed enough at the “per capita” level?
      If, that is, “per capita” = identifiable individual?


      But useful/necessary, if info collected is used to improve system’s “efficiency”?


      1. Eh, I’ll give the field the benefit of the doubt – after all, statistics is/are not particularly concerned with the single instance, but in the aggregations of such to reveal pattern(s).

  4. I’m particularly intrigued by the occasional basketballing of some of these countries’ life expectancy. Watch China’s life expectancy in the late 1950s (about 2:50ish) — the Great Leap Forward — it’s really quite appalling.

    1. 1950’s were it really all starts to take off with regards to life expectancy pretty much coincides with country-scale immunisation programmes and the introduction of anti-biotics.
      It’s health care improvements that do the most for life expectancy and this then means that people are more productive for longer, so earn more and can have smaller families, thus concentrating the wealth.

      I seem to remember he made this point in TED.

  5. What’s interesting for me to consider is the possibility that were it not for advances in medical technology, that the trends in diet worldwide – the increased consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates (with the dependent increase in obesity) – would, in fact, be lowering our life expectancy.

  6. Ok, so here is something I don’t get-
    Isn’t wealth is realative?
    I mean sure, we have technological advancements which improve our life, but wealth is always a zero sum game. So you can’t really compare wealth with currency.
    The only thing you can do is compare its distribution between the world. In order for someone to be rich- someone else need to be poor. And if the third world is catching up with the west, it means that the western quality of life will decrease. Significantly. (Technological advancment aside of course).

    Where am I wrong?

  7. What I would say, after reflection, is: how will we ever know if an individual is improving in health and wealth status if we don’t ask him or her? And who should be doing the asking? Governments, or perhaps neutral parties who are designated with impartiality in mind?

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