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Research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems.

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What share of children die before their fifth birthday?

What could be more tragic than the death of a young child? Child mortality, the death of children under the age of five, is still extremely common in our world today.

The historical data makes clear that it doesn’t have to be this way: it is possible for societies to protect their children and reduce child mortality to very low rates. For child mortality to reach low levels, many things have to go right at the same time: good healthcare, good nutrition, clean water and sanitation, maternal health, and high living standards. We can, therefore, think of child mortality as a proxy indicator of a country’s living conditions.

The chart shows our long-run data on child mortality, which allows you to see how child mortality has changed in countries around the world.

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Explore and learn more about this data

Share of population living in extreme povertyWorld Bank

What share of the population is living in extreme poverty?

The UN sets the “International Poverty Line” as a worldwide comparable definition for extreme poverty. Living in extreme poverty is currently defined as living on less than $2.15 per day. This indicator, published by the World Bank, has successfully drawn attention to the terrible depths of poverty of the poorest people in the world.

Two centuries ago, the majority of the world’s population was extremely poor. Back then, it was widely believed that widespread poverty was inevitable. This turned out to be wrong. Economic growth is possible and makes it possible for entire societies to leave the deep poverty of the past behind. Whether or not countries are leaving the worst poverty behind can be monitored by relying on this indicator.

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Explore and learn more about this data

Life expectancy at birthLong-run estimates collated from multiple sources by Our World in Data

How has people’s life expectancy changed over time?

Across the world, people are living longer. In 1900, the global average life expectancy of a newborn was 32 years. By 2021, this had more than doubled to 71 years.

Big improvements were achieved by countries around the world. The chart shows that life expectancy has more than doubled in every region of the world. This improvement is not only due to declining child mortality; life expectancy increased at all ages.

This visualization shows long-run estimates of life expectancy brought together by our team from several different data sources. It also shows that the COVID-19 pandemic led to reduced life expectancy worldwide.

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Explore and learn more about this data

Per capita CO₂ emissionsLong-run estimates from the Global Carbon Budget

How have CO₂ emissions per capita changed?

The main source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is the burning of fossil fuels. It is the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change.

Globally, CO2 emissions have remained at just below 5 tonnes per person for over a decade. Between countries, however, there are large differences, and while emissions are rapidly increasing in some countries, they are rapidly falling in others.

The source for this CO2 data is the Global Carbon Budget, a dataset we update yearly as soon as it is published. In addition to these production-based emissions, they publish consumption-based emissions for the last three decades, which can be viewed in our Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data Explorer.

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Explore and learn more about this data

GDP per capitaLong-run estimates from the Maddison Project Database

How do average incomes compare between countries around the world?

GDP per capita is a very comprehensive measure of people’s average income. This indicator reveals how large the inequality between people in different countries is. In the poorest countries, people live on less than $1,000 per year, while in rich countries, the average income is more than 50 times higher.

The data shown is sourced from the Maddison Project Database. Drawing together the careful work of hundreds of economic historians, the particular value of this data lies in the historical coverage it provides. This data makes clear that the vast majority of people in all countries were poor in the past. It allows us to understand when and how the economic growth that made it possible to leave the deep poverty of the past behind was achieved.

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Explore and learn more about this data

Share of people that are undernourishedFAO

What share of the population is suffering from hunger?

Hunger has been a severe problem for most of humanity throughout history. Growing enough food to feed one’s family was a constant struggle in daily life. Food shortages, malnutrition, and famines were common around the world.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization publishes global data on undernourishment, defined as not consuming enough calories to maintain a normal, active, healthy life. These minimum requirements vary by a person’s sex, weight, height, and activity levels. This is considered in these national and global estimates.

The world has made much progress in reducing global hunger in recent decades. But we are still far away from an end to hunger, as this indicator shows. Tragically, nearly one in ten people still do not get enough food to eat and in recent years — especially during the pandemic — hunger levels have increased.

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Explore and learn more about this data

Literacy rateLong-run estimates collated from multiple sources by Our World in Data

When has literacy become a widespread skill?

Literacy is a foundational skill. Children need to learn to read so that they can read to learn. When we fail to teach this foundational skill, people have fewer opportunities to lead the rich and interesting lives that a good education offers.

The historical data shows that only a very small share of the population, a tiny elite, was able to read and write. Over the course of the last few generations, literacy levels increased, but it remains an important challenge for our time to provide this foundational skill to all.

At Our World in Data, we investigated the strengths and shortcomings of the available data on literacy. Based on this work, our team brought together the long-run data shown in the chart by combining several different sources, including the World Bank, the CIA Factbook, and a range of research publications.

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Explore and learn more about this data

Share of the population with access to electricityWorld Bank

Where do people lack access to even the most basic electricity supply?

Light at night makes it possible to get together after sunset; mobile phones allow us to stay in touch with those far away; the refrigeration of food reduces food waste; and household appliances free up time from household chores. Access to electricity improves people’s living conditions in many ways.

The World Bank data on the world map captures whether people have access to the most basic electricity supply — just enough to provide basic lighting and charge a phone or power a radio for 4 hours per day.

It shows that, especially in several African countries, a large share of the population lacks the benefits that basic electricity offers. No radio and no light at night.

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Explore and learn more about this data

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Population and Demographic Change


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