Author Archive for ljridley

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Playing with Mortality Visualizations

Nathan Yau of Flowing Data has been doing some interesting (and beautiful) visualizations of when and how people die. First was Years You Have Left to Live, Probably. Next was Causes of Death. And today he posted How You Will Die.

Classifying Countries by Income

The World Bank has released a new working paper by Neil Fantom and Umar Serajuddin reviewing the World Bank’s classification of countries by income.


The World Bank has used an income classification to group countries for analytical purposes for many years. Since the present income classification was first introduced 25 years ago there has been significant change in the global economic landscape. As real incomes have risen, the number of countries in the low income group has fallen to 31, while the number of high income countries has risen to 80. As countries have transitioned to middle income status, more people are living below the World Bank’s international extreme poverty line in middle income countries than in low income countries. These changes in the world economy, along with a rapid increase in the user base of World Bank data, suggest that a review of the income classification is needed. A key consideration is the views of users, and this paper finds opinions to be mixed: some critics argue the thresholds are dated and set too low; others find merit in continuing to have a fixed benchmark to assess progress over time. On balance, there is still value in the current approach, based on gross national income per capita, to classifying countries into different groups. However, the paper proposes adjustments to the methodology that is used to keep the value of the thresholds for each income group constant over time. Several proposals for changing the current thresholds are also presented, which it is hoped will inform further discussion and any decision to adopt a new approach.

Read a summary of the findings.
Download the PDF.

Marriage, Cohabitation and Relationship Quality

Scott Stanley, writing for Family Studies, contrasts his own work with a study by Sarah Mernitz and Claire Kamp Dush which finds that people experience emotional gains when they move in together regardless of marital status. Stanley’s analysis finds that, for a variety of reasons, this isn’t necessarily true.

Inequality and Political Turmoil

Jay Ulfelder, writing for FiveThirtyEight, argues that the widely held belief that economic inequality causes political upheaval is a difficult thing to prove:

Just because a belief is widely held, however, does not make it true. In fact, it’s still hard to establish with confidence whether and how economic inequality shapes political turmoil around the world. That’s largely because of the difficulty in measuring inequality; on this subject, the historical record is full of holes. Social scientists are busy building better data sets, but the ones we have now aren’t sufficient to make strong causal claims at the global level.

Philip Cohen’s response to the piece is on his blog, Family Inequality.

Pre-K and Academic Achievement

Andrew Flowers of FiveThirtyEight examines a recent study by Lipsey, Farran and Hofer of Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program, which finds that kids from low income families who went to pre-K tend to fare worse academically than those who did not. Flowers also looks at a new NBER working paper which disputes this result.

Full text of the papers:
A Randomized Control Trial of a Statewide Voluntary Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Skills and Behaviors through Third Grade

Early Childhood Education

U.S. Fertility Rate

The big news from the National Vital Statistics Report, Births: Final Data for 2014, was that the general fertility rate increased in 2014 for the first year since 2007.

Anna Sutherland, writing for Family Studies, highlights some other findings: The U.S. Fertility Rate May (Finally) Be Recovering from the Recession.

How Americans Spend Their Day

Nathan Yau of Flowing Data created a beautiful visualization of how Americans spend an average day.

More specifically, I tabulated transition probabilities for one activity to the other, such as from work to traveling, for every minute of the day. That provided 1,440 transition matrices, which let me model a day as a time-varying Markov chain.

Baby Boomers, Cohabitation, and Marriage

Jennifer Murff, writing for the Family Studies blog, discusses the trend of the Baby Boom generation choosing cohabitation over marriage.

My mom’s story is not unique—far from it. Baby Boomers are cohabiting at a high and increasing rate. In 2000, when the oldest Baby Boomers were in their early fifties, there were 1.2 million cohabiting Americans over age 50; in 2013, by comparison, there were 3.3 million. For older Americans who are divorced and want to find love for a second (or a third) time—marriage is not in the cards, it seems. Unlike Millennials, many of whom cohabit to test the waters with a partner before making a long-term commitment, Boomers may cohabit rather than marry for more complicated reasons.

2014 Income and Poverty Estimates for School Districts, Counties, and States

The Census Bureau released the 2014 estimates from it Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program last week.

From Data Detectives:

Tables provide statistics on the number of people in poverty, the number of children younger than age 5 in poverty (for states only), the number of children ages 5 to 17 in families in poverty, the number younger than age 18 in poverty, and median household income. At the school district level, estimates are available for the total population, the number of children ages 5 to 17 and the number of children ages 5 to 17 in families in poverty.

Urban and Suburban Charter Schools

Susan Dynarski examines the research on charter schools for The Upshot:

Social scientists, like medical researchers, can confirm only whether, on average, a given treatment is beneficial for a given population. Not all charter schools are outstanding: In the suburbs, for example, the evidence is that they do no better than traditional public schools. But they have been shown to improve the education of disadvantaged children at scale, in multiple cities, over many years.