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Category Archives: Data and statistics

From Hell to Prosperity

A graphic showing striking disparities income among religions in America, from the NYT Magazine:

Bill switched from childhood Methodist to adult Episcopalian in an attempt to boost income. Did that likely work?

Barro and McCleary 2006 argue the relationship goes from income to religiosity (as measured by church attendance, personal prayer, and belief in hell and the afterlife). At least for the Protestant denominations, the ones on the left mostly feature more religiosity…

Also posted in In the news | 19 Comments

Inception Statistics

We’ve had a lot of very heated debates on this blog about the uses and abuses of global statistics—most recently on estimates of poverty, maternal mortality, and hunger—with a certain senior Aid Watch blogger inciting the ire of many (not least those who produce the figures) by calling them “made-up.”

A new study in the Lancet about the tragic problem of stillbirths raises similar questions: If stillbirths have been erratically and…

Also posted in Academic research, Global health | 19 Comments

Finally, the definitive guide to creatively manufacturing your own research result

From the brilliant xkcd (also the creator of this classic in statistics humor).

We couldn’t resist using this as a way to illustrate some of our early wonky posts complaining about the suspected practice of “data mining” in aid research.

In aid world, research looks for an association of some type between two factors, like economic growth and foreign aid. But since both growth and aid contain some random variation, there is…

Also posted in Academic research | 11 Comments

Does growth reflect good and bad dictators, or just good and bad statisticians?

As a previous post showed, autocracies have high variance of growth outcomes (also illustrated in the graph above). The usual interpretation is that benevolent autocrats cause good outcomes while malevolent autocrats cause bad growth outcomes.  Democracy has checks and balances that prevents malevolent people from having too much power to generate bad outcomes, but also restrains the good ones from doing what they want to achieve the great outcomes.

Unless this is completely wrong. Autocracy…

Also posted in Academic research | 23 Comments

Twitter and Income Distribution

UPDATE 11:35am: don’t think I obsess about Twitter numbers (see end of post)

I posted a link on Twitter to yesterday’s great post by Laura: ”Does Japan need your donation?”. A little while later the traffic on Aid Watch exploded. Being still pretty clueless about social media, I didn’t know why. Much later in the day, the reason became apparent — it had made it into @TopTweets Favorites, which I had never heard of  but…

Also posted in Technology | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The World According to USAID


Higher resolution file here.

This animated cartogram, created  by William and Mary student Ashley Ingram and blogged by Mike Tierney at AidData’s The First Tranche, shows aid flows from the US government to the rest of the world from 1985 to 2008.

To produce these maps, the geographic area of a country is replaced by the dollar value of its aid, so that the size of a country fluctuates from year to year depending on how much money the US sends it for development assistance. At the same time, the countries are shaded lighter or darker according to per capita income levels.

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches | 10 Comments

Third World America

UPDATE 11:20AM: accused of Detroit “poverty porn”, see response below.

As you may have noticed, this blog sees America itself as an interesting development laboratory. Others seem to agree, as a new report applies the Human Development Index to the US.

The site has a cool mapping function. Here is a map of health that locates Third World America in the Deep South and its borderlands.

The South as Third World holds up…

Also posted in Maps | Tagged , , , | 37 Comments

Where the money goes, Egypt edition

UPDATE 12:24 PM: US Aid here refers to Official Development Assistance, not military aid. See US military vs economic assistance  and US aid by sector in Egypt here.

This chart comes to us from the people at AidData, a data portal that provides detailed information down to the individual project level for aid funds spent by traditional and non-traditional donors.

The categories used are from research by Simone Dietrich, who explained: “Public sector…

Also posted in Academic research, In the news | 16 Comments

Cool maps: Measuring growth from outer space

For many of the world’s poorest countries, figures measuring economic growth are unreliable, and in some cases they don’t exist at all.  In an NBER working paper, Brown University professors J. Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, and David N. Weil came up with an interesting proxy for GDP growth: the amount of light that can be seen from outer space.

Of course, the light intensities pictured in this world map reflect both income and population density. The…

Also posted in Academic research, Maps | 20 Comments

Eternal sunshine of the useless charts

After all the blogging we’ve done on how hard it is to find complete and accurate information (as opposed to “success stories”) on USAID’s website, I think we’d be remiss not to mention a new US government site launched just before the holidays.

The Foreign Assistance Dashboard is the first version of a site that will someday allow users to create charts and tables showing where and how well US aid funds have been…

Also posted in Accountability and transparency | 12 Comments