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June 11, 2007

New Tools: Swivel Geography

swivel_map.jpg New from our friends at Swivel: the ability to overlay data on maps of the world. The implementation is still a little wonky at times (Swivel's "brain" didn't seem to recognize the abbreviation for the state of Louisiana) but overall, a step in the right direction. Click on the image at right to explore some state population data from the 2000 Census, or check out the Swivel Geography announcement for more details and examples.

May 21, 2007

The [Insert Your Name Here] Almanac

personal-almanac.jpgHere at World Almanac HQ, we spend most of our days compiling facts and statistics about large populations in the U.S. and around the world. But there are people out there who focus on much smaller populations... like, say, a population of one. Check out Feltron's 2006 Annual Report for an entertaining look at a year in the life of one man, rendered exclusively in charts and tables. Some of the highlights:
  • Plants killed
  • Museum visits
  • Date first gray hair discovered
  • Air miles traveled
  • Ratio of social:solo dinners
  • Genre distribution of books read

Also worth a look: Craig Robinson's Personal Pies. Not as comprehensive as Feltron's report, but illuminating nonetheless.

Links:
Feltron's 2006 Annual Report
Personal Pies

April 23, 2007

Gun Deaths in America

guns.jpgA recent New York Times graphic does a great job of visualizing a surprising statistic about the U.S.: that firearm deaths by suicide outnumber those by homicide.

We called attention to this in the 2007 World Almanac (see also this previous The World at a Glance), drawing on National Safety Council data, but the NYT graphic is well worth a look.

Link: An Accounting of Daily Gun Deaths (The New York Times, April 22, 2007)

February 23, 2007

So, How Are the Kids?

Most people in the U.S. know UNICEF most tangibly from those little boxes trick-or-treaters collect coins in on Halloween. Obviously, the United Nations Children's fund does more than turn kids into double-solicitors for one night every October. In UNICEF's attempts to address the needs of the world's children, they do quite a bit of studying in order to ascertain where those needs might lie. For example, their State of the World's Children 2007 reports on children in almost every nation in the world, with statistics, video profiles of individual children, and interactive charts and graphs.

Last week, UNICEF released another report, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, which specifically addresses childhood in the 21 most-developed nations in the world (including the U.S., U.K., and much of Western Europe). The study uses six categories: material well-being, family and peer relationships, health and safety, behavior and risks, and children's own sense of well-being (educational and subjective).

In overall well-being, the U.S. and U.K. respectively place 20th and 21st out of 21 countries—a sobering thought—and rank in the bottom third in five of the six categories studied. dutchkid.jpg

Top Ten Countries in Overall Child Well-Being
1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Republic of Ireland
10. Belgium

Full Report [UNICEF pdf]
Child Study Finds Big Divisions [BBC]
UNICEF Report: Key Points at a Glance [BBC]

Photo of Dutch child by .eti

February 20, 2007

Who is the Average American and Why Do We Care?

avg_american.jpgWhere did we ever get this concept of the average American or the typical citizen? And how did people get so comfortable telling pollsters their personal information, from what type of laundry detergent they use to how many times per month they have sex? These are important questions for all of us who pay attention to or participate in surveys. They also force us to think about the notion of privacy. Even asking someone who they voted for is a personal question... yet there are plenty of people who willingly give an answer to a pollster, a complete stranger. Just ask Gallup.

Why do so many people answer? To help understand the origins and possible reasons behind America’s poll-hungry culture, take a look at this op ed piece in the L.A. Times, written by UPenn professor Sarah Igo. She gives us a quick & dirty history of America’s love affair with surveys and polls, and she has some great insight and theory as to why and how we came to rely on them. Igo also touches on the limits of polls and early reaction to them.

Link: "Who Are We? Ask a Poll," Los Angeles Times

February 2, 2007

The World at a Glance: Changing Times

314854035_5617436462_m.jpgWe're all going full steam ahead on The World Almanac for Kids 2008, so apologies for the late (and light) posting today. To tide you over, here's another "World at a Glance" installment, this time a quick look at some notable changes in agriculture, health, population, and other areas in recent decades. Any other noteworthy trends we missed? Let us know in the comments.

1900-2000: The top country of origin for foreign-born U.S. residents shifted from Germany (26% of the foreign-born population in 1900) to Italy (13% in 1960) to Mexico (30% in 2000).

1940-2005: The total number of U.S. farms fell more than 66%, from 6.4 million to 2.10 million.

1960-2005: Americans’ average savings, as a percent of their disposable income, fell from 7.3% to –0.4%.

1960-2002: The percentage of U.S. adults who were clinically overweight climbed from 45% to 65%, and the number of all U.S. adults considered clinically obese rose from 13% to 31%.

1980-2005: Average annual tuition and fees for a 4-year private college or university were 10 times higher in 2005 than in 1980, rising from $1,809 to $18,838.

1980-2005: The percentage of high school seniors who had at least one heavy drinking episode in the previous two weeks fell from 41% to 28%.

1990-2005: The median price for an existing single family home in the U.S. climbed 138%, from $92,000 to $219,000.

1990-2004: The rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. slowed dramatically: emissions increased by an annual average of 1.7% from 1990 to 2000, but only 0.4% annually from 2000 to 2004.

2006-2050: The population of China, the most populous nation in 2006, will climb from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion in 2050, but India will surpass China by 2030, and is projected to top the list in 2050 with 1.8 billion people.

February 1, 2007

"The World as You've Never Seen it Before"

That's the tag line for Worldmapper, a novel approach to visualizing global data, and a collaborative project of a group of cartographers, social scientists, and other experts at the University of Michigan and the University of Sheffield. From a recent article on The Daily Telegraph website:
"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," said Prof Danny Dorling, of the University of Sheffield, one of the developers of Worldmapper, a collection of maps — cartograms — that rescale the size of territories in proportion to the value being represented.

On the maps of public health spending, research expenditure and wealth, Africa appears tiny. But in those that show global malaria cases and the deaths due to drought, Africa appears enormous.

You'll find a year's worth of maps on the site, spanning categories from income and housing to pollution and "destruction." Each map is also accompanied by a brief summary of the topic, plus links to labeled territory and population maps, data sheets in Excel or Opendoc formats, and even a downloadable PDF poster showcasing the map and some of its key data points.

Choose a topic, and you're bound to find something interesting. I was struck by two maps, which are as good a place to start as any:

map_childlabor.jpgChild Labor (at left): "Nine of the ten territories with the highest proportions of child labourers are in Africa. . . . The map shows that most child labour occurs in African and Southern Asian territories. India has the highest number of child labourers, twice as many as China where the second highest population of child labourers lives."

map_toyimports.jpgToy Imports (at right): "Most imports of toys (US$ net) are to the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. Toys are fun but not necessities. Thus toy imports give an indication of disposable incomes. The lowest imports of toys (US$ net) per person are to territories in Africa and also Tajikistan (in the Middle East)."

Link: Worldmapper

January 18, 2007

Genealogy Made Easy

Geni-shot.jpgLike a lot of people, I've made half-hearted stabs at compiling a family tree but never had the time or energy to delve too deeply into the project. But now there's hope for all of us lazy, would-be genealogists, courtesy of Geni, a slick, easy-to-use, online family tree and family history tool.

It couldn't be easier to get started: pick your gender, type in your name and e-mail address, and presto! You've got a one-person family tree. From there, you just click on easy-to-follow icons to add parents, siblings, spouses, and children, with as much detail as you care to provide. The best part? You can unload some of the work on other members of your tree. Provide an e-mail address for any family member, and Geni will allow them to log in and contribute their own knowledge--from adding new family members to filling in minute biographical details.

It's a new service, so performance can be a little slow and some features don't work consistently. There also doesn't seem to be an "export" or "print" feature, which would make it a killer app. And despite Geni's privacy policy, you should still be wary of giving any website a ton of private, personal information.

It's definitely not a tool for "serious" genealogists, but for those of us who just want to tinker with a quick, simple, and fun family free, it makes for at least a few diverting hours.

Link: Geni (via Lifehacker)

Note: If you need some help tracking down distant or deceased relatives, or you have a more serious interest in genealogy, the following resources are a great place to start:
FamilySearch.org
Genealogy at the National Archives

The World at a Glance: Surprising Facts

surprise.jpgHere we go again! It's time for another installment of "The World at a Glance," a new feature we added to The World Almanac 2007 to call attention to some of the thousands of eye-opening facts we packed into the book. This time, the focus is on "Surprising Facts"—from hard-to-believe bits of geographical trivia, to startling statistics that made us wonder whether one of the interns was playing a practical joke. (They weren't, but we still made them triple-check the fourth item on this list.)
  • Young American men (18-24) watch less TV per week than any other group, an average of 23 hours, 1 minute in 2005.
  • Despite rising 2005 domestic gasoline prices, U.S. prices averaged among the lowest in the world: 46% lower than in Japan and nearly 60% lower than in Germany and the U.K.
  • Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 8 inches along the coast and far less inland.
  • The African nation of Equatorial Guinea had the world’s second-highest per capita GDP in 2005 ($50,200, up from only $2,700 in 2002), thanks to booming oil sales.
  • The easternmost point in the U.S. is in Alaska: Pochnoi Point, on Semisopochnoi Island, is at 179°× 46' E longitude.
  • All 50 of the world’s tallest mountains are in Asia.
  • U.S. defense spending of $465 billion in 2004 was more than 3 times the combined estimate of spending by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
  • The most popular radio format in the U.S. is country (19% of stations), but rock music sells the most (32% of sales).
  • In the U.S., firearm deaths by suicide outnumber those by homicide by more than 40%.
Got some surprising statistics of your own? Let us know in the comments.

Previously: The World at a Glance: Number Ones
Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Meredith Farmer's Flickr stream (CC)

January 10, 2007

Who's In School?

schoolroom_nightowlcity.jpg One can learn a lot about a place by looking at its schools. The National Center for Education Statistics (a World Almanac favorite) has an online search page where you can look up any U.S. public or private school in any district and get, among other bits of information, a small demographic breakdown by race and sex of the students who go there.

After rediscovering this search, of course I had to go look up every school I had either gone to, wanted to go to, or otherwise had heard of for one reason or another (such as California's Torrance High School, where they shot the exteriors for Beverly Hills, 90210). It was fun trying to remember what I could about the different kids in my classes and if the current data shows any change since then. In my case, it looks like there is a good deal more diversity today in the schools I went to as compared to when I was a wee tot. That says quite a bit about the changes in population where I grew up, which I'm sure are minor compared to other school districts.

National Center for Education Statistics links:
Search for Public Schools
Search for Private Schools

Photo from Night Owl City's Flickr stream (CC)

December 28, 2006

The World at a Glance: Number Ones

1_3.jpgEven though The World Almanac is the best-selling American reference book of all time, there are still people out there who don't quite know what, exactly, you can find in it. So in the 2007 edition, we added a new feature page that summarizes some of the diverse, interesting facts you can find throughout the book, including some surprising facts, milestone birthdays for 2007, and important trends in the U.S. and around the world. For today, however, we'll keep the focus on our "Number Ones" — the biggest, the best, the worst, and the most popular in just a few of the dozens of different subject areas contained in the book.

Most popular car color in the U.S. .......... silver, more than 20% of new cars
Highest-rated U.S. television show, 2005-06 .......... American Idol, Tuesday night
Top-spending U.S. advertiser in 2005 .......... Procter & Gamble, $4.61 bil
Most prescribed class of drug in the U.S. .......... antidepressants, prescribed 81.2 mil times in 2004
Most popular dog breed in U.S. .......... Labrador retriever, 137,867 new dogs registered in 2005
Leading cause of death in U.S. .......... heart disease, 685,089 deaths (28%) in 2003
Nation with the most vacation days per year .......... Italy, average of 42 days per person
Largest world city .......... Tokyo, 2005 population 35.2 mil
Largest army, by active-duty troop strength .......... China, 2.3 million
Nation hosting the most refugees .......... Pakistan, with 1.1 mil in 2005
Most densely populated U.S. state .......... New Jersey, 1,135 persons per sq. mi.
Most sparsely populated nation .......... Mongolia, 4.7 persons per sq. mi.
Nation with most water per capita .......... Iceland, 582,191.8 cubic meters (U.S. has 10,333)
Developed nations with highest federal tax rate .......... Belgium and Germany, 42%
Nation with highest per capita GDP .......... Luxembourg, $55,600
Highest temperature recorded on Earth .......... 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, 9/13/22
Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. .......... Galveston Hurricane, Sept. 8, 1900; up to 12,000 killed
Most career saves (baseball) .......... Trevor Hoffman, 482 through 2006

[P.S.: Know a trivia buff who might love this list? Want to share it with the world? This would be a perfect time to try some of our sharing and social-networking tools. Click "Email this" to send this entry on to a friend, or "Add this" to bookmark or share it with dozens of different online services.]

Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream (CC)

December 8, 2006

Swivel It (Just a Little Bit)

I've been eagerly awaiting the appearance of Swivel, and this week it finally opened to the public. What's Swivel, you ask? Well, it's being billed as "the YouTube for data visualization": a website where people can upload practically any kind of data, render it into graphic form, and compare it against data submitted by other users. It's still in "preview" mode so things can be a little glitchy, but over the past couple of days things have noticeably smoothed out.

For statistics geeks (i.e., World Almanac fans), there's a lot of serious potential here, and even opportunities for fun. One particularly nice tongue-in-cheek touch: the icon to compare data in Swivel shows an apple and an orange, side-by-side — and most users are indeed, comparing apples to oranges, mashing together wildly different and completely unrelated trends, like wine consumption vs. violent crime over the past 30 years.

1160993Obviously, users should approach any data on Swivel with the same degree of skepticism they would bring to other user-created online content (I'm looking at you, Wikipedia). But it's still an interesting new service, and a great place to play around with any of the millions of authoritative, trustworthy statistics you'll find in the 2007 edition of The World Almanac and Book of Facts. For starters, click on the table at right to compare trends in accidental U.S. deaths from falls, poisoning, and firearms over the past 35 years. Which do you think is more likely to kill you?

November 30, 2006

What Are the Odds?

rattlesnake-080704-3.jpgNovember_the_5TH_2006_107.jpgSTA60018.jpg

If you’re like me, you’re mortally afraid of rattlesnakes, fireworks, and hot tap water, but you just don’t know which one you should be most afraid of. Thankfully, the National Safety Council comes to the rescue with a handy table called “What are the odds of dying?” that will either reassure or horrify you, depending on your particular phobia. Unsurprisingly, cars, guns, and “noxious substances” are among the greatest dangers. But snake and lizard-fearers, rejoice—chances are slim that you’ll be killed by a venomous reptile (1 in 1,241,661 lifetime odds). And don’t fret too much about that big Fourth of July celebration: your odds are about 1 in 744,997 of being killed by fireworks discharge. But next time you fill the tub, keep it cool: your lifetime odds of death from contact with hot tap water are just 1 in 93,125.

November 27, 2006

The Facts of Life

Last week, the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics released a preliminary report on their 2005 data on childbirth in the United States. Some notable facts include:

  • The birth rate for teenagers aged 15-19 fell to 40.4 births per 1,000 teenage girls from a peak of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.
  • The percentage of births to unmarried mothers rose from 35.8% of total births in 2004 to 36.8% of total births in 2005.
  • The cesarean delivery rate is now 30.2% of all births, a record high. The rate of cesarean delivery has increased 46% since 1996.

  • A fascinating and heart-wrenching story about a modern American hospital delivery is available online through The New Yorker.

    About Vital Statistics

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Vital Statistics category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

    United States is the previous category.

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