You can see a lot just by looking: European Infant Mortality and GDP in Motion

My 15 year-old daughter Grace got fired up by Hans Rosling’s first Ted talk.  She took up the challenge of learning a little bit of R code to build a web display using Google’s Motion Chart for her final European History project, June 2015.  Her project display involves time series of population, infant mortality, and per capita GDP for nine countries, 1820-1992.

This was a real data analysis problem. For Grace, most of the work involved gathering the data, getting it into the right format for display and thinking aboutthe data limitations. As she worked to understand the meaning of the numbers, I got to trot out Lord Kelvin’s advice, "the more you understand what is wrong with a figure, the more valuable that figure becomes.“

I showed Grace how to insert the R code into a Shiny app and then open a shinyapps.io account to share with her class.  (Here’s the link for her project.)

The overall pattern is decline in infant mortality and increase in wealth from the start of each country’s series through 1992.

Interact with the display for individual countries and you can see the impact of World Wars, the Great Depression and the break up of the Soviet Union.   For example, the Netherlands experienced a sharp drop in estimated income and increase in infant mortality at the end of World War II.

Technical Notes

Grace used population and constant dollar GDP per capita data from the Madison historical series.

Infant mortality series--deaths before age 1 per 1000 live births--came from a physical book, International Historical Statistics: Europe 1750-1993 (4th edition, 1998) by B.R. Mitchell, London: Macmillan Reference; New York, N.Y.: Stockton Press, accessed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison research library. That source meant a bit of time reading and typing numbers into a spreadsheet, a throwback to 20th century data analysis.

We found that the Google chart element sometimes loads slowly--be patient and if you run out of patience, hit the reload button.   Since the Motion Chart is rendered in Flash, you can use the free browser download from Puffin if you want to see the chart on an iOS device.

Grace allowed me to share her code, I have posted it here on GitHub.

Model for Improvement applied to different problems: The type of problem matters!

2-4-6 (or 2-4-8) Game