A Free-Market Energy Blog

HumanProgress.org (Cato’s ‘Julian Simon’ data bank expanded, updated)

By Marian Tupy -- May 1, 2015

“New improvements promise to make the website even more interesting and useful. Dozens of new datasets have been added and existing datasets updated. Also, the website is now “responsive” and may be viewed and used more easily on mobile devices, such as iPhones, Androids and iPads. Moreover, the website is now optimized for all major browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer.”

Evidence from academic institutions and international organizations shows dramatic improvements in human well-being. These improvements are especially striking in the developing world.

Unfortunately, there is often a wide gap between the reality and public perception, including that of many policymakers, scholars in unrelated fields, and intelligent lay persons. To make matters worse, the media emphasizes bad news, while ignoring many positive long-term trends.

HumanProgress.org, a Cato Institute project with funding from the Searle and Templeton foundations, intends to correct misperceptions regarding the state of humanity through the presentation of empirical data that focuses on long-term developments. All of our wide-ranging data comes from third parties, including the World Bank, the OECD, the Eurostat, and the United Nations. By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, our goal is to provide a useful resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

While we think that policies and institutions compatible with freedom and openness are important factors in promoting human progress, the evidence speaks for itself. We hope that this website leads to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world and stimulates an intelligent debate on the drivers of human progress.

New Features, Improvements

New improvements of this Julian Simon inspired project promise to make the website even more interesting and useful. Dozens of new datasets have been added and existing datasets updated. Also, the website is now “responsive” and may be viewed and used more easily on mobile devices, such as iPhones, Androids and iPads. Moreover, the website is now optimized for all major browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer.

Additional features include:

•    A new type of data visualization will allow you to compare the nominal cost of goods, such as groceries, clothing, and electric appliances, in the past and in the present. It will also allow you to see how much time a worker earning an average hourly wage had to spend to earn enough money to buy said items in the past and in the present.

•    Improved chart design will allow you to create and export charts that focus on a period of your choosing. Say, for example, that a dataset contains data from1800 to 2013, but you are only interested in the period between 1817 and 1993. By moving the slider to 1817 and 1993, the chart will automatically adjust to show data only for the time period that you are interested in.

•    HumanProgress.org now provides you with automatically calculated regional values using the United Nations’ geographical categorization of countries. Thus, while the datasets themselves come from many different third-party sources, the regional values are calculated by HumanProgress.org using the United Nations’ regional definitions. A regional value followed by “(HP)” denotes a regional value calculated by HumanProgress.org.

A regional value without “(HP)” denotes a regional value calculated by the original source. Please note that HumanProgress.org regional values are not weighted in any way and are calculated irrespective of the number of individual country values available. Consequently, a regional value based on values from one or two countries is less representative of the “facts on the ground” in the region as a whole than a regional value based on values from all countries belonging to that region.

•    “Breadcrumbs” will make browsing our datasets easier. Say that you are on a page listing all the available datasets for “Primary School Enrollment Rate,” but have not found what you are looking for. Instead of starting your search anew, the breadcrumbs will allow you to quickly return to the previous search level, such as “Primary Education” or “Education.”

•    The breadcrumbs will also appear on your workspace page. Once you have explored a particular dataset, say the Gender Inequality Index, and wish to see other available datasets pertaining to Gender Equality, just click on the appropriate breadcrumb. You no longer have to start your search from scratch.

•    Also, the lightest color on our maps is no longer linked to a data value of zero. To provide for greater visual contrast, the maps’ color range will always start with the lowest recorded value in any given dataset and end with the highest recorded value in any given dataset.

•    It is often not possible to collect data for all countries in all years. To improve the usefulness of HumanProgress.org, we have “interpolated” the missing values. This particular adjustment only concerns our maps (see above), ranking tables, and calculation tables (see below). Interpolated data does not show in data tables and line charts. All interpolated values are clearly marked with a green asterisk.

•    Each of our datasets comes from a third party. The original sources of our datasets are always identified below the time slider. The source line now includes the date on which a particular dataset was last updated.

•    Our Homepage carousel is updated every two weeks with new images. All of the carousel infographics, past and present, can now be found in our “About” section. By clicking on an infographic, you will be able to share it or email it.

•    Occasionally, we come across interesting infographics on the web. You will find these “Web Infographics” in our “About” section. Again, by clicking on an infographic, you will be able to share it or email it.

•    A new bibliography in our “About” section contains dozens of books and articles on trade and globalization, domestic and international competition, technology and innovation, as well as broader subjects of economic development and causes of prosperity. They should provide an overview of the world economy and society since the industrial revolution and provide some insights into where humanity may be heading in the future.

I hope that you will find HumanProgress.org even more useful than before. As always, we welcome constructive criticism and friendly suggestions. Moving forward, we are hoping to continue to add more features and datasets. Those efforts, however, will require additional resources.

Feel free to support this project by contacting us at contact@humanprogress.org.

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Marian L. Tupy of the Cato Institute edits HumanProgress.org and is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He specializes in globalization and global well-being, and the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.