Data Insights

Bite-sized insights on how the world is changing, written by our team.

June 14, 2024Bastian Herre

Human rights have improved in all world regions over the last century

Line chart showing that human rights have improved in all world regions. The progress has not been steady, there have been setbacks, and big differences between regions have continued. Human rights are less protected in Africa and Asia than other parts of the world.

Human rights are much better protected in all world regions than a century ago, according to data by Varieties of Democracy.

This recently updated chart shows an index that captures human rights. The index ranges from 0 (least rights) to 1 (most). As you can see, every world region scored significantly higher in 2023 than 100 years ago.

Although progress has not been steady, and there have been setbacks — including in recent years — the overall improvements have been substantial. These trends remain when giving more weight to countries with larger populations.

While progress has been made in all world regions, there are still big disparities across them, with Africa and Asia lagging behind. And the strong protections on other continents show that further global progress is possible.

Explore this data

June 13, 2024Hannah Ritchie

Solar panel prices have fallen by around 20% every time global capacity doubled

A connected scatterplot showing the cost of solar PV measured against cumulative installed capacity. Prices have fallen exponentially: by 20% for every doubling in installed capacity.

One of the most transformative changes in technology over the last few decades has been the massive drop in the cost of clean energy. Solar photovoltaic costs have fallen by 90% in the last decade, onshore wind by 70%, and batteries by more than 90%.

These technologies have followed a “learning curve” called Wright’s Law. This states that the cost of technology falls consistently as the cumulative production of that technology increases.

The chart shows the perfect example of this for solar power. This data comes from the International Renewable Agency, Greg Nemet, and Doyne Farmer & François Lafond.

On the horizontal axis, we have the cumulative installed capacity of solar panels, and on the vertical axis, the cost. Both are measured on logarithmic scales, and the trend follows a straight line. That means the fall in cost has been exponential.

Costs have fallen by around 20% every time the global cumulative capacity doubles. Over four decades, solar power has transformed from one of the most expensive electricity sources to the cheapest in many countries.

Learning curves: What does it mean for a technology to follow Wright’s Law?

Technologies that follow Wright’s Law get cheaper at a consistent rate, as the cumulative production of that technology increases.

June 12, 2024Esteban Ortiz-Ospina

The price of lighting has dropped over 99.9% since 1700

Line graph titled 'The price for lighting in the United Kingdom'. The graph displays the dramatic decrease in the price of lighting, measured in million lumen-hours in British Pounds, from 1301 to 2006. The y-axis ranges from £0 to £40,000 and the x-axis spans from the year 1301 to 2006. The line peaks early around 1301 at approximately £40,000 and shows a sharp decline towards 2006, where it reaches around £3. The data is a 5-year moving average and adjusted for inflation to year 2000 prices. The source is Fouquet and Pearson (2012).

In the last two centuries, the price of lighting has decreased drastically.

You can see this in the chart, which plots historical data from Roger Fouquet and Peter Pearson. To allow for comparisons over time, the data is adjusted for inflation and expressed in prices for the year 2000.

In the 1300s, one million lumen-hours — a standard lighting measure — would have cost around £40,800 in 2000 prices. By 2006, this had fallen to £2.90, a 14,000-fold decline.

Innovations in lighting appliances, fuels, infrastructures, and institutions during the 19th and 20th centuries made this progress possible.

To put this in perspective, consider that a standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb today can emit about 1,700 lumens. Therefore, running one such bulb for 24 hours would produce about 50,000 lumen-hours. That means that 1 million lumen-hours today would require continuously keeping a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb on for about 25 days. Achieving the same amount of light with candles would require burning more than 100 candles every day for that period.

Most people today take the ability to switch on a light at night for granted. But those who live or have lived without artificial light can appreciate how important it is.

Read more on our page on light at night

June 11, 2024Bastian Herre

Homicide rates have declined dramatically over the centuries

Line chart showing that homicide rates have declined a lot in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France over the last eight centuries.

It is hard to imagine just how violent the past was.

The chart shows that in the 13th and 14th centuries, based on data from researcher Manuel Eisner, homicide rates across Western Europe were higher than 10 murders per 100,000 people in a year. In Italy, the rate was as high as 70 murders per 100,000 people.

Since then, murder rates have fallen significantly across these countries. According to data from WHO’s Mortality Database, their homicide rate is now around 1 murder per 100,000 people — less than a tenth of what it used to be.

Despite these improvements, homicides remain a common cause of death globally and are even a leading cause in some countries. But significant and lasting reductions in violence between people are possible.

Explore this data

June 10, 2024Hannah Ritchie

Which countries have fertility rates above or below the “replacement level”?

Global map showing which countries have fertility rates above and below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman.

Fertility rates — which measure the average number of children per woman — have been falling worldwide. Since 1950, global fertility rates have halved, from almost 5 children per woman to 2.3.

As a result, global population growth has slowed dramatically, and many countries' populations are expected to decline by the end of the century.

This is because fertility rates in many countries have fallen below the “replacement level”. This is the level at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next. It’s generally defined as a rate of 2.1 children per woman.

The map shows which countries had fertility rates above and below this level in 2021. This is based on estimates from the UN World Population Prospects.

Explore the data

June 07, 2024Bastian Herre

Core LGBT+ rights are becoming more protected in some countries

Line chart showing that the number of countries that protect core LGBT+ rights — same-sex sexual acts, marriage, adoption, legal gender marker change, and the recognition of a third gender — has increased between 1991 and 2019, but except for same-sex relationships is still low.

Important LGBT+ rights are becoming better protected in some countries, according to the work of researcher Kristopher Velasco.

The chart shows that in the early 1990s, very few countries protected LGBT+ rights beyond allowing same-sex sexual acts. Back then, no countries allowed same-sex partners to marry or adopt children, none recognized a third gender, and only two made it easy to change one’s gender marker legally.

Over the last few decades, more countries have offered and protected these rights. Most countries have now legalized same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage, adoption, third-gender recognition, and gender marker changes are becoming more common. However, most countries still do not recognize these important rights.

Explore this data

June 06, 2024Hannah Ritchie

Many countries are “leapfrogging” landlines and going straight to mobile phones

Line chart showing the adoption of landlines and mobile phones across countries.

The concept of “leapfrogging” is popular in development. It suggests that lower-income countries can, as they develop, skip intermediate technologies or systems to go straight to the modern equivalent.

One example of this is the use of landlines and mobile phones.

The landline telephone was invented in 1876 and became a dominant form of communication across Europe and North America. As you can see in the chart, it was increasingly adopted in the United States and the United Kingdom throughout the 20th century.

However, mobile phone adoption increased rapidly in the 1990s, and landlines have declined since the millennium. Mobile phones have become a substitute for landlines.

Many countries, however, have almost skipped the adoption of landlines entirely. India, Ghana, and Nigeria are good examples: landline subscriptions have remained extremely low, and instead, mobile phone adoption has exploded.

Explore the data

June 05, 2024Saloni Dattani

Deaths from tetanus have been reduced massively

Tetanus is a bacterial disease that causes paralysis and can lead to death.

Globally, it was estimated to kill more than 250,000 annually in the early 1990s, mostly children.

By 2019, annual deaths were under 35,000.

As more children received the combined vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), deaths have fallen massively.

Tetanus is a bacterial disease that causes paralysis and can lead to death.

Globally, it was estimated to kill more than 250,000 people each year in the early 1990s. Most of these deaths were in children.

By 2019, annual deaths had fallen to less than 35,000.

The rollout of the combined vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) among children has been crucial in driving this.

Explore this data

June 04, 2024Edouard Mathieu

Mobile money accounts are surging globally, especially in Africa and Asia

Mobile phones and the Internet have enabled the growth of mobile money accounts in regions with limited banking infrastructure. These accounts provide simple financial services like deposits, transfers, and payments to hundreds of millions of people.

As this chart shows, the number of active mobile money accounts globally has grown from 13 million in 2010 to more than 640 million in 2023. This is based on data published by the GSM Association.

While the adoption of mobile banking was almost exclusive to Sub-Saharan Africa in the early 2010s, Asian countries have seen significant growth in recent years.

Explore this data

June 03, 2024Bastian Herre

There are large differences in LGBT+ rights across the world

Map showing a map of the LGBT+ rights index for 2019, which combines information on policies such as the legality of same-sex sexual acts, marriage, and gender marker changes to show that LGBT+ rights vary a lot across countries.

As shown on his map — based on an index calculated by researcher Kristopher Velasco — LGBT+ rights vary greatly between countries.

The index combines information on 18 policies, including same-sex relationships, marriage, and gender markers. Higher values indicate more and better-protected rights; negative values represent regressive policies.

In some countries, people can legally be in same-sex relationships, get married, and adopt children. But in many others, LGBT+ rights are poorly protected, or policies are regressive. Some countries explicitly ban same-sex marriage or impose severe punishments, including the death penalty, for same-sex relationships.

While some countries have made progress in protecting LGBT+ rights, most still have a long way to go to achieve equality.

Explore differences in LGBT+ rights across countries and over time

May 31, 2024Pablo Rosado

More than 80 billion land animals are slaughtered for meat every year

Stacked area chart showing the yearly number of land animals slaughtered for meat worldwide, from 1961 until 2022. The most common are chickens, ducks and pigs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the number of land animals slaughtered for meat production has risen continuously for the past 60 years.

In 2022, the reported total reached 83 billion worldwide.

This number does not include additional deaths that occur during the production of meat and dairy, such as male baby chickens slaughtered in the egg industry, and other animals for which no data exists.

As the chart shows, the immense majority of these animals are chickens. Ducks and pigs are the second and third species most frequently slaughtered.

Explore this data

How many animals get slaughtered every day?

Hundreds of millions of animals get killed for meat every day.

May 30, 2024Hannah Ritchie

Winters have warmed faster than summers in the United States

Line charts showing the increase in temperatures across different seasons in the US. Winters are warming faster than summer.

The world is getting hotter as a result of climate change, with some countries warming faster than others. But within countries, warming is not equal across the year.

In the United States, winters have warmed faster than any other season. This is followed by spring, with summer and fall showing the slowest rates.

The chart below shows the temperature anomaly — the change in seasonal temperature compared to the average over the 20th century (1901 to 2000). This data is collected and published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

American winters have warmed by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit (°F), compared to 1.5°F to 2°F in other seasons.

Minimum temperatures have increased faster than maximum temperatures. That means nighttime temperatures have increased more than daytime temperatures.

Explore the data

May 29, 2024Esteban Ortiz-Ospina

Airline hijackings, once relatively common, are rare today

Bar chart displaying airliner hijackings and deaths globally from 1942 to 2021. The top bar chart, labeled 'Incidents,' shows the number of hijackings per year. There's a noticeable peak in incidents during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a gradual decline thereafter. The number of incidents drops significantly after the year 2000. The lower bar chart, labeled 'Fatalities,' shows the number of deaths per year due to hijackings. After 2001, the number of fatalities decreases. The data source is the Aviation Safety Network (2023), and the chart is credited to OurWorldInData.org/terrorism, under CC BY license

Airline hijackings are often considered a very visible and prominent form of modern terrorism, with the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001 being a well-known tragic example.

Historical data from the Aviation Safety Network shows that airline hijackings have a long history but have become much less frequent than in the past.

Between 1968 and 1972, hijackings reached a peak, with over 305 incidents recorded globally within those five years.

In 2021, the most recent year with available data, there were 3 incidents, none involving fatalities.

Explore this data

May 28, 2024Saloni Dattani

On average, people have lived much longer than the period life expectancy at their time of birth

The chart shows a comparison between period and cohort life expectancy. Cohort life expectancy (the actual average lifespan) is higher than period life expectancy. This is because period life expectancy is calculated by assuming people will experience the current year’s mortality rates at each age at the corresponding ages in their lifetime.

But in reality, mortality rates declined throughout the 20th century, so people actually lived longer than what’s implied by period life expectancy.

Another reason for the difference is that period life expectancy is partly a reflection of conditions of the past that continue to affect older generations’ death rates today.

You can also see that the trendline of cohort life expectancy ends decades ago. It can only be measured retrospectively, because researchers need to wait for data on deaths of the population who were born more recently.

The data on this chart comes from the Human Mortality Database.

It shows that in 1930, people in France had a period life expectancy of 57 years. Period life expectancy is a metric that summarizes age-specific mortality rates in one particular year. This means that newborns would live 57 years on average if they experienced the same death rates at each age of their lives as those seen at each age in the population that year.

However, these newborns actually faced lower death rates than previous generations and lived an average of 69 years. This second measure — the average lifespan of a birth cohort — is called cohort life expectancy. It can only be calculated once all cohort members have died.

Period life expectancy is the more commonly reported “life expectancy” measure. However, these two measures are very different, and the gap can be large, as this data shows.

Read more on the difference between period and cohort measures

May 27, 2024Bastian Herre

One in five democracies is eroding

Stacked area chart showing the share of eroding democracies, stable democracies, and deepening democracies since 1900. Eroding democracies are at their highest level ever, at around 20% of all democracies.

Based on the Episodes of Regime Transformation data, this chart shows that around 20% of democracies were slowly deteriorating in 2023.

According to the underlying expert assessments by country experts, elections are becoming less meaningful, free, or fair in these countries.

This rate of democratic erosion is unprecedented.

This is partly because the data seeks to capture gradual declines in democratic institutions, while historically, democracies often broke down rapidly in coups d’état or foreign invasions.

So, while political rights are under threat in a substantial share of democracies, there is still time to act to halt this decline, restore democratic rights, and even deepen democratic institutions.

If you want to learn more, you can read my article on recent changes in democracy, for which we just updated the data.

May 24, 2024Hannah Ritchie

There are huge inequalities in global CO2 emissions

Grouped bar chart showing each income group's share of global co2 emissions and population.

Richer people tend to have a higher carbon footprint. They consume more energy, and since much of it still comes from fossil fuels, they have much higher carbon emissions than those on lower incomes.

This inequality is clear when we examine countries' contributions by income level. The chart above shows the four World Bank income groups’ share of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and population, using data from the Global Carbon Project. The groups are based on the average income at the country level — they don’t account for differences between people’s incomes within each country.

High-income countries contribute more than twice their share of the global population: they are home to just 15% of people but emit 34% of global emissions. Low-income countries are home to 9% of the global population but emit less than 1% of total emissions.

This gap increases by several percentage points when we account for emissions embedded in traded goods.

Read more

May 23, 2024Esteban Ortiz-Ospina

In less than a decade, Peru has become the world's second-largest blueberry producer

Blueberry production, 1961 to 2022, Peru, Canada, Chile, US. Desktop version.

Between 2012 and 2022, Peru's blueberry production went from less than a thousand tonnes to nearly 300,000 tonnes per year.

According to estimates from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, this huge growth in output was enabled by a rapid expansion in the land used to grow blueberries, together with substantial gains in the number of tonnes produced per cultivated hectare.

These trends show that significant agricultural changes can happen very quickly.

Explore the world's food system crop-by-crop from production to plate

May 22, 2024Saloni Dattani

Much more progress can be made against child mortality

This world map titled "Child mortality rate, 2021," visually conveys the estimated share of newborns who die before age five in each country. The color-coding of the countries reveals that Central Africa experiences the highest child mortality rates, indicated by the darkest shades. The bottom of the image credits the "UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (2023)" as the source of the data.

The world has made great progress against child mortality. But in many countries, a significant share still die during childhood.

The data on this map comes from the UN IGME, which estimates child mortality rates worldwide using detailed household surveys and vital statistics.

As the map shows, child mortality is much lower in rich countries, where fewer than 1% of children die before the age of five.

However, the figures are much higher in poor countries, especially across Africa and South Asia. In Pakistan, for example, 6% die before their fifth birthday. In Nigeria and Somalia, the figure is 11%.

These statistics show that despite impressive falls in child mortality, much more progress can be made.

Child mortality: an everyday tragedy of enormous scale that we can make progress against

We live in a world in which 10 children die every minute.

May 21, 2024Edouard Mathieu

The price of computer storage has fallen exponentially since the 1950s

Line graph depicting the historical price of computer storage from 1956 to 2023. The y-axis represents the price in US dollars per terabyte on a logarithmic scale, ranging from 10 billion dollars to 100 dollars per TB. The x-axis represents the years from 1956 to 2023. Three lines represent different types of storage technologies: 'Disk' in orange, 'Solid State' in purple, and 'Flash' in green. The orange line starts from the highest price in 1956 and shows a steep decline over the decades. The purple and green lines start later in the timeline, around the late 1990s and early 2000s, respectively, both beginning at lower prices than the disk and following a similar downward trend.

This chart shows the dramatic fall in the price of computer storage between 1956 and 2023. It relies on the data carefully collected by the computer scientist John C. McCallum.

In the last 70 years, the price for a unit of storage has fallen by almost ten orders of magnitude. The data is plotted on a logarithmic scale on the vertical axis. The line follows an almost straight path, indicating an exponential reduction in price.

A 256-gigabyte storage capacity — commonly found in standard laptops sold today — would have cost around 20 billion dollars in the 1950s. (That’s in today’s prices.)

And cost has not been the only improvement: modern solid-state drives offer much faster and more reliable data access than early magnetic and hard disk drives.

Read more on the exponential growth of computing capabilities

May 20, 2024Bastian Herre

In the last 200 years, many countries have built institutions to collect statistics on their populations

Line chart showing that many countries have established censuses, civil registers, population registers, and statistical agencies that collect basic statistics about their people over the last centuries.

Governments need accurate information about their populations to implement effective policies.

But historically, few countries collected basic statistics on their people, so they knew little about them.

The chart here shows that, over time, many countries have built such institutions.

Starting in the 19th century, they began conducting population censuses, creating civil registers, and establishing statistical agencies. In the later 20th century, they started setting up population registers and using register-based censuses.

Thanks to these efforts, these countries better understand where people live, what jobs they have, who was born, and who has died.

However, many countries still lack these institutions, which makes it challenging for them to direct projects and policies where they are most helpful.

Explore this data

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