Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (42 page)

Alcohol deaths.
Our calculations on deaths involving alcohol draw on IHME[9], NHTSA (2017), FBI, and BJS. See gapm.io/alcterex.

Risks of dying.
The percentages we quote take the death tolls on Level 4 for the past ten years divided by the number of all deaths on Level 4 over that period, and are based on the following data sources: EM-DAT for natural disasters, IATA for plane crashes, IHME[10] for murders, UCDP[1] for wars, and GTD for terrorism. A more relevant risk calculation should not just divide by the number of all deaths, but rather should take into account exposure to the situations in which these kinds of deaths can occur. See gapm.io/ffear.

Comparing disasters.
To compare different kinds of disaster deaths, see “Not All Deaths Are Equal: How Many Deaths Make a Natural Disaster Newsworthy?” online at OurWorldInData[8]. Gapminder is currently compiling data about the skewed media coverage of different kinds of deaths and different kinds of environmental problems. When ready, it will be published here: gapm.io/fndr.

Chapter Five: The Size Instinct

Nacala child deaths calculation.
The births and population data used for these calculations is based on the Mozambique census of 1970, the Nacala hospital’s own records, and UN-IGME of 2017.

Wrong proportions.
The examples of proportions that people tend to overestimate come from Ipsos MORI[2,3], which reveal misconceptions across 33 countries. Paulos,
(1988), is full of fascinating examples of disproportionality, asking, for example, how much the level of the Red Sea would rise if you added all the human blood in the world. See gapm.io/fsize.

Educated mothers and child survival.
The discussion on how educated mothers lead to higher child survival is based on a study of data from 175 countries between 1970 and 2009, by Lozano, Murray et al. (2010). See gapm.io/tcare.

Saving lives.
The list of the low-cost, high-impact interventions that save the most lives comes from UNICEF[2], which also set out the essential basic health care to which all citizens should have access before public health budgets start being spent on more advanced care.

4.2 million.
The data on infant deaths in recent years comes from UN-IGME. The data on births and infant deaths in 1950 comes from UN-Pop[3].

Bears and axes.
This striking comparison was brought to the public’s awareness by a man named Hans Hansson. He wrote to his local newspaper about the absurd neglect of domestic violence against women and went on to start a network for men to help them break their violent behavior. Read an interview with him in English here:

The Spanish flu.
Crosby (1989), in his book
America’s Forgotten Pandemic,
estimated that the Spanish flu caused 50 million deaths. The number is confirmed by Johnson and Mueller (2002) and CDC[1]. The world population in 1918 was 1.84 billion, which means this pandemic wiped out 2.7 percent of the entire global population.

TB and swine flu.
The data on swine flu comes from WHO[17], and the data for TB from WHO[10,11]. See gapm.io/bswin.

Energy sources.
The data comparing energy sources is from Smil,
Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives
(2016). Smil describes the slow transition away from fossil fuels and also debunks myths about food production, innovation, population, and mega-risks. See gapm.io/tene.

Future consumers.
For an interactive visualization of the graphs on page 138, see gapm.io/incm. Two great books on this are
The Post-American World
by Fareed Zakaria (2008) and
The World Is Flat
by Thomas L. Friedman (2005).

per capita.
The data on CO
per capita for China, the United States, Germany, and India comes from CDIAC. See gapm.io/tco2.

Chapter Six: The Generalization Instinct

Graph: Difference within Africa.
For an interactive version of the graph on page 159, see gapm.io/edafr.

The data comes from UNFPA[1] and UN-Pop[9]. See gapm.io/twmc.

Everything is made from chemicals.
People with chemophobia divide the world into “natural” (safe) and “chemical” (industrial and harmful). The world’s largest database of defined chemical compounds sees it differently. CAS contains 132 million organic and synthetic chemicals and their properties. It shows that toxicity is not related to who produces the compound. Cobratoxin (CAS registry number 12584-83-7), for example, which is produced by nature, paralyzes your nervous system until you can’t breathe. See gapm.io/tind.

The Salhi family.
See more about the Salhi family at gapm.io/dssah. If you think we have too few homes from Tunisia or elsewhere on gapm.io/dstun, feel free to contribute. Read more about how you can do it at:

The recovery position.
For more on the history of the recovery position, see H
gberg and Bergstr
m (1997) and Wikipedia[10].

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The conclusion that it was public health policy on the prone position that caused the increase in SIDS in Sweden is described by H
gberg and Bergstr
m (1997) and Gilbert et al. (2005). The report from Hong Kong is from Davies (1985).

Chapter Seven: The Destiny Instinct

The sense of superiority.
For more on the sense of superiority over other groups, see Haidt,
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
(2012). See gapm.io/fdes.

Societies and cultures move.
To see the World Health Chart in motion over 200 years, visit
and click Play.

Africa can catch up.
The data for life expectancy for countries and regions comes from Gapminder[4]. Paul Collier writes in
The Bottom Billion
(2007) about the future prospects for the world’s poorest people. Our rough estimate of people in extreme poverty close to conflicts is based on ODI (2015), preliminary results by Anders For
Tollefsen and Gudrun
stby of the number of people who live close to conflict worldwide (743 millions in 2016), and maps from WorldPop, IHME[6], FAO[4] and UCDP[2]. See the speed of improvement over the past decades here: gapm.io/edafr2.

Progress in China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
The Population Bomb,
by Paul and Anne Ehrlich (1968), contributed to a widespread idea that Asia and Africa would never be able to feed their growing populations. The data on deaths from famines is from EM-DAT. The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) produces maps of conflicts and poverty: gapm.io/mpoco. For global textile production, see gapm.io/tmante.

IMF forecasts.
Our comments on the IMF’s forecasting track record are based on the World Economic Outlook IMF[2]. See gapm.io/eecof.

Fertility in Iran.
Professor Hossein Malek-Afzali, at Tehran University of Medical Science, was my host in Iran. He showed me the infertility clinic and taught me about Iran’s family planning and sexual education programs. To compare Iran—the world champion in family planning—against other countries over time, see gapm.io/vm2.

Religions and babies.
In most countries, a majority of the population belongs to one of the large religions, and this guides which chart the country shows up in. However, in many countries there is no clear majority. In Nigeria, for example, 49 percent of the population was Christian and 48 percent Muslim in 2010 according to our data on religion, Pew[2,3]. We have split 81 such countries into three separate bubbles in the relevant charts, using Pew[2] and USAID-DHS[2] to estimate each religious group’s fertility rate, and roughly estimating each religious group’s per capita income based on GDL[1,2], OECD[3] and other sources. See: gapm.io/ereltfr.

Asian values.
In “Explaining Fertility Transitions” (1997), Karen Oppenheim Mason discusses changing family norms. Gender roles change quite fast in all cultures as people get richer and their way of living is modernized. In cultures with an emphasis on extended families, values may change a bit more slowly. See gapm.io/twmi.

Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.

Nature reserves.
The data on protected nature is based on data from The World Database on Protected Areas (UNEP[5]), with the Protected Planet report (UNEP[6]) and IUCN[1, 2]. The trend for 1911–1990 comes from
Looking Ahead: The 50 Trends That Matter;
see Abouchakra et al. (2016). See Gapminder[5] for details.

Outdated chimpanzee questions.
In the 1990s, students at Karolinska Institutet did not know that many European countries had worse health outcomes than many Asian countries. These are the results I show in my first TED talk: Rosling (2006). Thirteen years later, when we wanted to check whether people’s knowledge had improved, we could not use the original questions, because these European countries had caught up, as shown in the animated chart here: gapm.io/vm3.

Cultural change in the United States and Sweden.
The data on attitudes toward same-sex marriage in the United States is from Gallup[5].

Chapter Eight: The Single Perspective Instinct

Poll results from groups of professionals.
For poll results for the groups of professionals mentioned here, and others, see gapm.io/rrs.

Expert forecasts.
People with extraordinary expertise in one field score just as badly on our fact questions as everyone else. This wouldn’t surprise Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner, the authors of
(2015). In this book they describe a systematic way to test people’s ability to predict the future, and they find that one thing that can really impair good judgment is narrow expertise. They also describe the personality traits that often come with good judgment: humility, curiosity, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. You can practice your forecasting in their Good Judgment project:

Lindau Nobel laureate meeting.
This is a great annual gathering of brilliant young researchers who, thanks to this wonderful organization, get the chance to learn from Nobel laureates once a year. We are not criticizing that! We are just using their really low score on the vaccination question to make the case that expert knowledge doesn’t guarantee general knowledge. Read more about the presentation on the Lindau website: gapm.io/xlindau64.

Plundered natural resources.
For discussions about the commons and how to avoid exploitation, see
The Plundered Planet: Why We Must—and How We Can—Manage Nature for Global Prosperity,
by Paul Collier (2010), and IUCN Red List[4].

Education needs electricity.
For more on this, see UNDESA.

US health spending.
The spending data comes from WHO[12]. The comparison between US spending and spending in other capitalist countries on Level 4 comes from OECD[1], a study named “Why Is Health Spending in the United States So High?” It concludes that costs in the US health-care system are higher across the board, but in particular costs of outpatient care and administration; and that this does not lead to better outcomes, because the system is not incentivizing doctors to spend time with the patients most in need of care. See gapm.io/theasp.

Paul Collier’s books are just as disturbing as they are fact-based. See his
Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places
(2011) for more on how democracy can destabilize countries—especially countries on Level 1—rather than make them safer. More disturbing problems with democracy are discussed in Fareed Zakaria’s
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
. We must remind ourselves of Winston Churchill’s wise words: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” See gapm.io/tgovd.

Fast economic growth and democracy.
This discussion is based on economic growth data from IMF[1] and the Democracy Index 2016, from
The Economist
[2]. This index gives countries “democracy” ratings between 1 and 10, with the lowest score, 1.8, going to North Korea and the highest score, 9.93, to Norway. Here are the ten countries with the fastest economic growth over the past five years and their democracy scores (fastest first): Turkmenistan, 1.83; Ethiopia, 3.6; China, 3.14; Mongolia, 6.62; Ireland, 9.15; Uzbekistan, 1.95; Myanmar, 4.2; Laos, 2.37; Panama, 7.13; Georgia, 5.93. Only one of the ten fastest-growing economies scores well on democracy.

Chapter Nine: The Blame Instinct

Neglected diseases.
For the list of diseases that are not profitable to the pharmaceutical industry, since the victims are almost entirely people living on Level 1, see WHO[15]. Until recently, Ebola was on this list.

Systems thinking.
Peter Senge developed the idea of systems thinking within corporate organizations as a way of stopping people from blaming one another and helping them to understand the mechanisms that are causing problems. But his ideas apply to all kinds of human organizations where blaming individuals blocks understanding. See Senge,
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization
(1990). See gapm.io/fblame.

UNICEF’s low costs.
UNICEF’s streamlined logistics and supply chain are amazing. If you want to place a bid, you can see the supplies and services UNICEF is looking for right now at
. You can read more about its procurement process at UNICEF[5].

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