Going beyond averages

I’ve written before about Hans Rosling and his amazing talks about global development. Today I stumbled about another excellent youtube video that takes a more critical stance. Why don’t you look for yourself:

There are some valid points – first and foremost that averages can be misleading. To illustrate, a hypothetical example: if, from four friends, three earn 10$/h and one earns 100$/h, the average earning per hour is (3*10+100)/4 = 32.50$, even though three quarters earn only a third of that, and one earns three times as much. So yes, averages can be misleading – they hide the variability, and they are skewed towards outliers. If instead of averages we look at the median – the middle value – we’d get 10$. I am somewhat surprised that this is not what the video goes on to show. Unfortunately, I also could not find median life expectancy or median income on gapminder (where these bubble graphs come from) – I’d guess that the pattern would still be similar but the values would be lower.

Another point raised in the video is mental health – or more general that there are things that get worse as countries get richer. Again, point taken.

However, I don’t quite buy that this is contrasting Rosling – I rather take this as complementary, or in fact building up on what Rosling promoted: looking at data, being factful, basing everything on evidence. So I welcome views pointing out evidence that I wasn’t aware of before. If you stumble upon interesting evidence, why don’t you put it in a comment below? I’d be happy to see it!

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