Fantastic and Fun Interactive Graphics

Fantastic and Fun Interactive Graphics

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If there is one person in this world that makes statistics fun and a useful tool, is Hans Rosling. Professor Rosling studied statistics and medicine at Uppsala University and for many years he delighted us with an elegant and exquisite way of presenting statistics, before his methods, statistics were a soporific matter for most people.

This time I want to share with you one of the interactive tools created by Rosling… the Trendanalyzer software which you can find in the Gapminder Foundation web site, see With it, you can build interactive, dynamic and moving graphics in a very simple way. What I’ll do is share some graphs I built, always energy-related of course, using the Trendanalyzer toll. I will also include links where you can see these graphs “moving”, I’ll do that in order to invite you to explore the fascinating world of statistics through so nice instrument.

The curse of natural resources is present in all the countries? First things first, what is the natural resource curse? It turns out that in 1995 Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner published a, from my point of view, shy paper called “Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth“. In this paper they find a very particular statistical relationship: countries with abundant natural resources tend to grow (economically ) less in the long run. What? If you saw the movie “Blood Diamond” with Leonardo DiCaprio you will understand me perfectly, the central hypothesis of this film is that the abundance of diamonds in Sierra Leone is one of the causes of the economic and social problems in the country, of course … the film is tinged with a love story, a local hero and a foreign one as well. Anyway, the fact is that something similar would happen in countries that have oil, gold, etc. You will note that after this hypothesis abundant literature deal with this subject, some authors in favor, others against… as my good friend Milton will say: “there is everything in the Lord’s vineyard.” What I’ll do now is try to check this relation in oil and natural gas producer countries.

Consider the two graphs below (both naturally built with the Trendanalyzer tool) in the first you can appreciate that the relationship between GDP and oil production has a positive (not clear) correlation, I mean, the biggest the oil production the biggest the economic growth. In the second graph we see the relationship between GDP and natural gas production, it’s interesting to see how the positive relationship tends to be more evident, than in the oil case. However, the beauty of these graphics is in the animation process, therefore, I invite you to visit these two links: 1) for oil and 2) for natural gas. You will only have to click in the play button and the magic will start. It would be nice if some young researcher effectively check if natural gas producing countries have a more sustained economic growth and, more importantly, the reasons for this. Will the cause can found in the long-term natural gas contracts? Does the natural gas needs more infrastructure? Exciting questions… at least for me.

Another nice example is related to energy access and child mortality, there is literature  that explains how the access to electricity reduces child mortality, the logic is as follows: 1) with household access to electricity moms will no use firewood, 2) then, without firewood there will be no smoke, 3) smokeless environments will keep babies away from respiratory diseases. So the question is if statistics can confirm that, for this reason I contrast the child mortality (because of pneumonia) with electricity consumption per capita. Looking the graph below, you can see an exciting result, in the world… the higher the electricity consumption the lower the child mortality from pneumonia. For economists and econometricians friends… yes, maybe is a spurious result.

We are fortunate to live in a world where access to international information is easy and cheap, and also people like Professor Rosling make statistics more beautiful and funny. I hope I was able to motivate you to explore a bit more this page At the end I want to thank you for visit my site, soon I’ll have 100,000 visits; this for an evil, neoliberal economist as me is, to say the least, exciting.

Mauricio Medinaceli Monrroy

Kabul May 21, 2013

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