# What is Our World In Data?
Our World in Data (OWID) is an online publication that shows how living conditions are changing. The aim is to give a global overview and to show changes over the very long run, so that we can see where we are coming from and where we are today.
Our World in Data communicates this empirical knowledge in two ways:
- through data visualizations – charts and maps.
- by presenting the academic research on global development that explains what drives the changes that we see and what the consequences of these changes are.
The publication is produced at the University of Oxford and currently created by a team of three: The economist Esteban Ortiz Ospina, the web developer Jaiden Mispy, and the founder of the publication Max Roser.
Our World in Data covers a wide range of topics across many academic disciplines: Trends in health, food provision, the growth and distribution of incomes, violence, rights, wars, culture, energy use, education, and environmental changes are empirically analysed and visualized in this web publication. For each topic the quality of the data is discussed and, by pointing the visitor to the sources, this website is also a database of databases. Covering all of these aspects in one resource makes it possible to understand how the observed long-run trends are interlinked.
Our World in Data aims to bridge the gap between the important research findings of experts in narrow academic fields and the public that is interested in this research, but is unable to find, access, and sometimes understand this research. Our publication reaches several hundred thousand readers every month and from feedback and exchange with readers we know that the audience is comprised of interested readers, journalists, academics, and policy makers. The demand for our work shows us that there are many of us that are interested in how the world is changing, but find it hard to get access to the relevant research.
Individual data entries deal with the different aspects of living standards, you find these entries in the menu structured into 16 categories that always stays at the top. Additionally we have a small Our World in Data blog.
Our World In Data is entirely made available as a public good:
- The entire publication is freely available,
- all data published on the website is available for download,
- our visualizations of data published on Our World in Data are made available under a permissive Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) license so that everyone can use them,
- and all the tools to publish OWID and to create the visualizations are free to use by everyone (completely open source and available on GitHub here).
The presentation of text and data makes use of the capabilities of online publishing. Almost all publications on the web – including those in the best journals – are currently just emulating the possibilities and restrictions of publishing on paper. They are published online, yet they are static combinations of text and visuals which were essentially already at the disposal of Johannes Gutenberg when he invented the printing press in the 1440s. Our World in Data uses the possibilities of the web – links that show the interconnectedness of development, options are available to search and explore the publication, and the empirical evidence is presented in interactive visualizations that can be explored, saved, and for which the data can be directly downloaded. To further move from a static medium to a dynamic medium with computational responsiveness is one of the key aims of Our World in Data.
# The Content of Our World in Data
# The data entries
OWID entries give the reader an overview of how a particular social, economic or ecological aspect of the world has changed over the long run. These entries are arranged into the 16 categories that you find in the menu on the very top of the page.
The content structure of each entry is shown in the following figure:
In the 1st section of every data entry – the section titled ‘I. Empirical View’ – we present the most important facts of the long-term development of the topic of that data entry. The presentation of these trends makes use of interactive data visualizations and presents the available empirical evidence about what we know about the historical development (up to now) about each of the many different aspects of global development. The data visualizations are a distinctive feature of OurWorldInData and are often used in journalistic and academic articles, on social media and in school and university teaching.
Here is an example for a data visualization in section I.: The world map shows how life expectancy has changed over time. Use the slider below the map to see the change over time. (If you click on Chart in the top right corner you can explore the change for each country in the world.)
Section 2 is titled ‘Determinants & Consequences‘. To illustrate and communicate the research findings in this section we also use data visualizations – while the summarized (and referenced) research will show the current evidence on what is behind the observed changes and what they mean for our living conditions. To give a concrete example, while the peer-reviewed research on the causal links between mother’s education and higher child survival is summarized, this same section is illustrated with the correlation of these two measures across countries.
Section 3 is a very important section: Too often empirical studies are not critical enough about the data that is used in their empirical research (and this is equally an issue for data visualizations which are shared online for example on social media sites). Section 3 – ‘Measurement, Data Quality & Definitions’ – defines the used measures and explains the limitations of the empirical data by reviewing the literature that scrutinizes the available empirical data on the particular topic.
Section 4 is pointing the visitor to the relevant original data sources and allows interested researchers to study the empirical evidence themselves.
To give overviews over bigger topics – violence, hunger, poverty, etc – we produce presentations that cut across many topics that are covered in dedicated entries.
These presentations can be accessed on the front page in the menu titled ‘The Visual History of …”.
# What we are working on and what will be added later
Our World in Data is always a work in progress. We will be working on this for many years.
We are a small team, have limited funding, and this is a huge project.
Entries that are already comprehensive and pretty complete are marked with a star in the menu. Other entries (those not marked with the star) are only sketches of more comprehensive entries that we plan to write later. Many entries that we will definitely add in the future are not yet online.
We have a list of all current and future data-entries that shows which topics we will cover in this publication. There will be 275 entries. Offline we are constantly collecting material for the future entries; this catalogue includes much more than ten thousand references to visualisations, data sources, and research papers.
Currently (in 2017) we are not adding more topics and instead focus on the content that is already in the publication. The priority for the next months is to revise and extend the following entries:
- Extreme poverty
- Population growth
- Child mortality
- Happiness and life satisfaction
- Technological Progress
- Hunger & Undernourishment
- Economic Growth over the Very Long Run
- Income Inequality
- Financing of Education
- Financing of Health
- Government Revenue [and Composition of Tax Revenues]
The only completely new entries that we do want to add in the coming months are three entries on gender aspects of development. These three entries will focus on three different dimensions – economically, political, and empirical evidence on rights and violence.
In addition to this we are always improving the technical framework – the website, the database and the visualisation tool.
# The Team
The intention for this publication was always to be a collaborative work and from 2015 onwards several researchers contributed to the content and web developers expanded the technical framework of the publication:
# Current Our World In Data team
Since February 2016: Jaiden Mispy, a web developer with experience in the software industry, who is interested in using technology to improve academic work. In the past, Jaiden has helped build tools which assist researchers from various fields, particularly in genetics and quantum physics. Jaiden is developing the very heart of this web publication – our data storage and visualization tool owid-grapher. This tool is open source and free to use by everyone. Contact: [email protected]
Since February 2016: Dr. Esteban Ortiz Ospina who is an economist and a Research Associate at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. He was Departmental Lecturer in Economics at the University of Oxford from September 2013 to January 2016. His main research interests are in applied microeconomics. He completed his DPhil in Economics at the University of Oxford focusing on theoretical models of selection under uncertainty, applying them to issues of access to higher education. His current research studies issues such as the implications of discrimination in university admissions. You find more about Esteban on his personal page at the Blavatnik School of Government. Contact: [email protected]
Our World In Data was founded and is run by Dr. Max Roser. I started working on this in 2011 and built this online publication over the course of several years until we received donations and support from foundation that allowed us to work together as a team. I am an economist working at the University of Oxford and my work is split in two closely related parts: partly I do research on poverty, health, and the distributions of incomes and partly I work on this online publication. The close link between these two parts is the focus on studying the long-term growth and the distribution of living standards. I want to understand how the world is changing and why.
My background is in economics, geoscience and philosophy and my research. At Oxford I am working at the Oxford Martin School. My personal website is MaxRoser.com. Contact: [email protected]
# Former members of the Our World In Data team
May 2015 to September 2015: Lindsay Lee, who has a background in Applied Statistics and continued to do a Master in Public Policy has been working to expand content – particularly on health and demographics – and make the content more consistent across the site. Her personal site is LindsayEvansLee.com. Lindsay continued her studies at the University of Oxford after her work at OWID.
June 2015 to October 2015: Mohamed Nagdy completed his MPhil in Economics in 2015 at the University of Oxford. He is an economist with particularly strong empirical skills and helped to expand the content on the growth and distribution of incomes, economic development, violence, and education. Mohamed worked as an economist in London after his work at OWID.
July 2015 to August 2015: Julia Murphy, who has a background in economics and engineering (Dartmouth College) was contributing to this project in the summer of 2015 and focused on expanding the section ‘Media & Communication’. Julia continued her studies after her internship at OWID.
# External contributors to Our World in Data
Professor Brian Nolan and Dr Stefan Thewissen from Oxford University are coauthors of the the entry on Incomes across the Distribution.
Our World in Data was developed in collaboration with Sir Tony Atkinson. He developed the idea for this publication together with Max and remained an adviser to the project until his death in 2017. Sir David Hendry was the Principal Investigator in the initial phase of the project. We are very grateful for their support and advise through the years.
# How to use Our World in Data?
We have a page that quickly explains how to use Our World in Data in your presentations, in your writing, and on your web articles and blog: How to use Our World in Data
There you find the information on how to save charts as images, how to embed charts in your articles, and how to use of our work legally.
# The ‘Grapher’
The OurWorldInData–Grapher is at the heart of this publication. It is the tool that allows us to store all data in an online database and then to visualise this data in line charts, maps, bar charts, scatter plots, area charts etc.
As everything else on OWID the Grapher is also completely open source.
You find more – many examples, a video that shows the backend, and everything else – on the OurWorldInData page about the Grapher.
# History of OurWorldInData
In 2011 I started working on this publication by myself. The first idea was to write a book that presents a long-run perspective on global development, but since I found it was difficult to find the empirical literature and empirical data on global development I changed these plans and decided to provide this basic information for everyone online myself. In the following years my supervisor Sir Tony Atkinson and I developed the concept for such a publication, I collected a lot of data to structure and plan this publication. Over the following years this was my project that I worked on on weekends and the evenings. In 2014 I was done with a first basic version of the website and made OurWorldInData available online.
Over the course of 2015 the project was hosted at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the Department of Economics at the University of Oxford while the financial support was provided by a small research grant from the London-based Nuffield Foundation.
Now, from 2016 onwards this work will be carried out at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Martin School. The Martin School is an interdisciplinary research institution within the University of Oxford and close links between the publication of OurWorldInData and the Martin School already exist. However, funding is only secured for the first 6 months of 2016 and during this period the project has to be successful to secure funding for a longer time horizon, otherwise it will not continue.
The Oxford Martin School was chosen as the institution to host this work as it is a truly interdisciplinary research institution with a focus on the challenges of global development. It is therefore the ideal place to carry out this research.
A small selection of the names of the other programs at the Martin School makes clear that there is a close-knit research environment around OurWorldInData from which this publication can benefit: Global Health, Armed Conflict, Migration, Climate Change, Food, Vaccines, and the Future of Humanity Programme are some of the related programmes.
Collaborations with several of these and other research programs of the Martin School are already established and were already useful in the development of OurWorldInData.org.
The best aspect of the work on Our World In Data was that we are now able to work on this project as a team. The web developer Jaiden Mispy and the research economist Dr Esteban Ortiz Ospina have both made a tremendous contribution to this free online publication. Their work is only possible thanks to the very generous donations that we receive from readers! (You can support our work here.)
# Impact of OurWorldInData
I started preparing this publication in 2011 and in June last year and made the website available online in June 2014. Several hundred thousand readers visit OurWorldInData.org every month. Many articles portrayed the project or used material on global development from OurWorldInData.
English speaking media outlets using OurWorldInData include The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, Slate, Vox, Foreign Policy, Thomson Reuters, The Guardian, Quartz, Bloomberg, World Economic Forum, Business Insider, The Financial Times, and the New Yorker.
Non-English speaking media outlets using OurWorldInData include La Presse (Canada & France), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland), Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), Veja (Brazil), Les Echos (France), Bild am Sonntag (Germany), Polimaty (Poland), Aftenposten (Norway), Rue 89 (France), Blic (Serbia), Chabad (Israel), Scientias (Dutch), Jutarnji (Croatia), Rusplt (Russian), Kushima (Japan), Berlingske (Denmark), Vice (Italy), Contrepoints (France), RPP (Peru), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), and Der Spiegel (Germany).
We are trying to keep this list of media coverage up-to-date and include all coverage that we are aware.
From the feedback we know that the content of OurWorldInData is used widely in teaching and in lectures. We love when someone uses our work for teaching and it would be great if you would let us know (just a line of what you are teaching and what you are using would be helpful already).
# Sources of data
One of our key tasks in producing this publication is to bring together the best and most informative data sets on a particular topic.
Sources of data that we bring together are published by 3 different sources:
- specialized institute – like the Peace Research Institute Oslo PRIO)
- research articles – like Bourguignon & Morrison – ’Inequality Among World Citizens: 1820-1992’ in the American Economic Review 
- international institutions or statistical agencies – like the OECD, the World Bank, and UN institutions.
# How we choose which data to present
We have 6 guidelines to decide which sources to accept and which data to present.
1) As far back into the past as possible – but up to today
The goal is to give a perspective on the long-term development and therefore we always aim to find time series data that reach back as far as possible. Unfortunately the availability of data is often itself an achievement of modern development and data is not available for the more distant past. A solution for this problem is data that has later been reconstructed and we aim to give a more complete picture by taking this data into account.
At the same time the idea is also to present a ‘history of today’ and we therefore also want to ensure that the data presented reaches until today. The limitation here is often that it takes up to several years for researchers and international institutions to publish important data for the most recent period.
2) As global as possible
A second objective is to give an account of each topic that includes as many societies, countries, and world regions as possible.
3) Present data in its entirety
Shorter sample periods may mask important trends and a recent reversal of a long-term trend could be falsely interpreted as the direction of the long-term trend. The merit of taking a historical perspective that studies long-term trends is that it shows the direction in which some aspect of our world is developing. Therefore we also always ensure to present the whole dataset and we do not want to cut off the original data.
4) Comparable through time and across societies
A third objective is to ensure that the data we present is comparable across time and across societies.
When data is not comparable across countries and through time we highlight this in the text accompanying the visualisation.
5) There is no other data – or we would include this data
An important promise is that we are not withholding any data that would give a different impression of the long-term development of some aspect. If two credible sources would publish statistics that contradict each other – indicating an open debate between researchers – then we would say so.
6) Reference the original source
To make the data base useful for readers and credit the important work of those who construct the data presented here we aim to always reference the original source of the data.
We could very well fail to notice that we violated our own guidelines: If you find that we are not following my own guidelines, or you have any other complaints, please contact us through the form below – click on ‘Give us Feedback’.
# Media Coverage
The media coverage of OurWorldInData.org is now moved to a dedicated page that lists all coverage that we are aware of.
# Authorship of Our World In Data
All content of this publication is licensed under a permissive Creative Commons BY-SA license. Content produced by Our World In Data can be freely used by everyone who finds it useful for their work – including journalists, authors, bloggers, lecturers, or educators.
Author of Our World in Data is Max Roser who founded this publication.
# Disclaimer of warranties and limitation of liability.
To the fullest extent permitted by the applicable law, OurWorldInData offers the websites and services as-is and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the websites or services, express, implied, statutory or otherwise, including, without limitation, warranties of title, merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, or noninfringement. OurWorldInData does not warrant that the functions or content contained on the website or services will be uninterrupted or error-free, that defects will be corrected, or that OurWorldInData servers are free of viruses or other harmful components. OurWorldInData does not warrant or make any representation regarding use or the result of use of the content in terms of accuracy, reliability, or otherwise.
Max Roser owns the copyright of the text and the visualizations unless otherwise indicated.
Except to the extent required by applicable law and then only to that extent, in no event will OurWorldInData, or the people working on and related to this website (“the OurWorldInData parties”) be liable to you on any legal theory for any incidental, direct, indirect, punitive, actual, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages, including without limitation, loss of revenue or income, lost profits, pain and suffering, emotional distress, cost of substitute goods or services, or similar damages suffered or incurred by you or any third party that arise in connection with the websites or services (or the termination thereof for any reason), even if the OurWorldInData parties have been advised of the possibility of such damages.
The OurWorldInData parties shall not be responsible or liable whatsoever in any manner for any content posted on the websites or services (including claims of infringement relating to content posted on the websites or services, for your use of the websites and services, or for the conduct of third parties whether on the websites, in connection with the services or otherwise relating to the websites or services.
In case copyright’s infringements are noticed please contact the author Max Roser at