Has the World Become a Better Place?

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A presentation showing fertility rate and child mortality of all countries 1962-2003. Developed in collaboration with Aktuellt at the Swedish Public Service broadcaster – Sveriges Television (SVT) . Produced 2005.

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19 thoughts on “Has the World Become a Better Place?

  1. I’d say not watching 2 of your kids die on average qualifys for improvement. What kind of comment is that?

  2. i agree with Jneb, child mortality doesn’t directly relate to the world being a better place, just that technology and medicine are improving. and possibly care for infants in developing countries too.

  3. A reduction in any death definitely indicates improvement in and of itself, magnitude notwithstanding.

  4. Isn’t it just simply as women have fewer babies, the mortality rate also declines? Isn’t this just a linear relationship? Wow – eye opening

  5. dutch bhag, no, you are mistaken.
    You are confusing a “linear” decline with a percent change. Fewer born does not reduce the percentage of deaths, only the absolute number of children that die in that family.

    If a woman has 10 kids and 2 die, that’s a 20% child mortality. She can have 5 kids and 1 dies and it is still 20%. What the statistics clearly show is the number of children born AND the percentage of them that die as children (from all causes) also declines. Having fewer children in parts of Africa, for instance, does not lessen the threat of malaria. Better education and health care (2 aspects of appropriate development) do lessen the threat.

  6. >Because child mortality rates define whether or not the world is a better place.
    It’s a better place for sure and for that, by the way many other cancers are here!

  7. Dear Jneb
    The internet is a very interesting way to comunicate, although when one is using the writen word it has it’s limitations. Grammer and spelling are very important to the online “chatter”. It is also important to recognize that your keen sense of sarcasm may not quite come across when we cannot hear the tone and inflection in your voice. Perhaps what you were trying to say is as follows: I do not believe that decreasing the number of children dying in one’s country represents the betterment of said country.
    If this is the case then i would say that I cannot agree with you less.
    Child mortality rate is perhaps the best way to represent over-all health of a people, although i would love to see other examples.

  8. The problem with this is that it only looks at two axis (ie. infant mortality and number of children) in determining the ‘wellness’ of the world. Unfortunately, those are only a small portion of the indicators that add up to the picture depicting the health of the world, not the least of which would be the level of education being attained by the average citizen in each nation, as well as the life expectancy of those nations which would directly reflect on the relative health of individuals living in a particular area.

    Other things that would be important to factor into any equation being used to determine whether or not the world has become a better place would be an examination of the conflicts in any particular area and the number of dead (both civilian and military) from each conflict. Increased numbers would certainly indicate a worsening of situations. Another extremely important factor would be the tracking of famines and droughts, especially when it comes to a nation’s ability to feed their own citizens. During the 1970’s and 80’s, for example, the former Soviet Union was a net importer of Canadian wheat due to several disastrous seasons. An inability to feed the people living in the country is never a good sign, and certainly not a sign of things improving.

    Quite frankly, an example of the decreasing birth rate and child mortality is one of the last factors that I would look at for one reason: consider the United States today. It currently has the highest childhood mortality rate of all developed nations as a result of their health care system and the fact that many pregnant women living in inner-cities and disadvantaged areas who do not have medical insurance, or are under-insured are not receiving pre-natal care. As a result of this many babies are being born prematurely or with preventable catastrophic illnesses that lead to their deaths, or they die during child birth.

    Just remember, statistics can be used to prove anything you want; regardless of what the numbers say.

  9. Peter, a strong argument can be made for these being the most important measures of the wolrd being a better place. Fewer children imply greater resources can be directed to each child improving the other metrics you mentioned such as education and life expectancy.

    It is simply not the case that a country not being self sufficient in food is *never* a good sign. It may well indicate that the country hs more productive uses of its land and labour. the UK has not been self sufficient in food sinc the mid 1700s precisely because things were getting better there.

    Your last paragraph highlights an important way to make life better in the US

  10. It is interesting that US has the worst medial care, much worse than for example Rumania, Lithuania or Cuba.

    It is also interesting that people living in US are completely unaware of this.

    1. It is interesting that if it is not mentioned as a news story at least twice a day on Sky News or CNN, that “people living in US are completely unaware of” it.

      People in the US are immensely aware of it, simply unwilling to respond to it in large numbers. And with a population in the hundreds of millions, effecting change will take a response in large numbers.

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