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Global Inequality: Where is it Found?

By Andrew Linford | April 30, 2011 |

Poverty and inequality are contentious topics whose geography is often oversimplified. When many people think of extreme poverty and aid, they often focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, but global inequality and poverty are much more complex issues. Overall, it is increasingly apparent that a country-based framework that generalizes levels of income over entire national territories

Difficulties Calculating Inequality and the Gini Coefficient

By Andrew Linford | April 19, 2011 |
Gini Index for Countries around the World in 2009

Global and local inequality has been a major topic of debate, leading to many attempts to quantify income disparity. The Gini Coefficient is the best-known measure of inequality, but it has its flaws, as do all inequality measurements. A popular measurement of economic inequality focuses on variations in income among people in a state

The Linguistic Geography of the Wikipedia

By Martin W. Lewis | April 18, 2011 | 12 Comments

One of the highlights of the Association of American Geographers meeting last week in Seattle was the annual Geography Bowl. Student teams competed to answer all manner of geographical questions, including a few that were devilishly difficult. The most impressive answer may have come in the final round, when the two remaining teams were asked

National Anthems: Forced National Identity?

By Andrew Linford | April 12, 2011 | 8 Comments

Every country and many non-sovereign states have national anthems. They are an indispensable representation of nations, played from official receptions to sporting events. As described by Wikipedia: “A national anthem

The Extreme Disparities of State Revenue

By Martin W. Lewis | March 8, 2011 | One Comment

Everyone knows that vast disparities of wealth and productive capacity separate the world’s richest countries from its poorest ones. It is thus no surprise to learn that the per capita GDP of France ($34,092) is 100 times greater than that of the Democratic Republic of Congo ($340). Less widely appreciated is

Environmental Determinism, Ellsworth Huntington, and the Decline of Geography

By Martin W. Lewis | February 10, 2011 | 2 Comments

Geography is defined as “the study of the earth and its features.” Derived from the Greek for “earth writings,” geography traditionally focused on the world as a whole; investigations of smaller regions were a distinct if related branch of learning. For centuries, the main focus of geographical research was filling in the unknown portions of

Racial Classification, H. J. Fleure, and the Decline of Geography

By Martin W. Lewis | February 9, 2011 | 5 Comments

In scanning “races of the world” maps in atlases published before 1970, I am taken aback as much by the basic errors in world geography as by the crudity of the racial classification. Consider the first map above, derived from a Rand McNally original and printed in my own childhood companion, TheWorld

Absurdities of Racial Mapping

By Martin W. Lewis | February 8, 2011 | 7 Comments

In the conventional narrative of intellectual progress, people of the past are said to have habitually deferred to authority, ignoring sensory evidence if it contradicted accepted wisdom. Galileo’s experiments and telescopes may have been intriguing, but to the extent that they contravened Aristotle or the Bible, they were discounted by those adhering

The Failure of the Failed State Index

By Martin W. Lewis | January 11, 2011 |

The use of the term “failed state” has surged over the past fifteen years, as can be seen in the Google N-Gram posted above showing the frequency of the term’s occurrence in scanned books. A January 8, 2011 Google news search for “failed state” yielded—in the first twelve articles alone—stories on Sudan, Mexico, Egypt

Uses and Misuses of the Mercator Projection

By Martin W. Lewis | December 10, 2010 | 8 Comments

The World Bank is not the only organization to misemploy the Mercator projection for basic world maps. In a Google image search of “world map,” roughly a third of the initial set of maps returned greatly inflate the high latitudes. Not all, however, grotesquely exaggerate Greenland; one particularly unsightly map, reproduced above, solves

Problematic Internet Maps and Data

By Martin W. Lewis | December 8, 2010 | One Comment

The World Bank’s map of internet penetration, discussed Monday, has a number of awkward features. Beyond the problems analyzed earlier, it poorly conveys the vast disparities indicated by its own data. According to the World Bank, the percentage of the population using the internet in 2008 varied from over 90 in Iceland to 0.2

The World Bank’s Development Base Map: A Cartographic Fun-House Mirror

By Martin W. Lewis | December 6, 2010 | 2 Comments

The World Bank provides global data on many issues other than the “ease of doing business.” The Bank’s website offers a treasure-trove of statistics on wide array of topics. All data is mapped out by country, providing a virtual atlas of world development. Whether the data are accurate and the maps illustrative are different

The World Bank’s Nonsensical Taxation Index

By Martin W. Lewis | December 3, 2010 |

The “paying taxes” component of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index might seem to rest on more secure foundations than some of the other measurements, as governments have a strong incentive to acquire accurate tax data. The corresponding map, produced above, reveals some unusual patterns. Northern Europe gains a favorable ranking

The Ease of Doing Business Index: Big Problems with Contracts and Credit

By Martin W. Lewis | December 1, 2010 |

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index rests on a complex amalgamation of data. Each of its component measurements is based on a sub-index, each of which produces a different map. Consider Canada’s relatively low position on the ease of enforcing contracts map, posted above. Canada ranks seventh overall in the composite index

Oddities In The Ease of Doing Business Index

By Martin W. Lewis | November 29, 2010 | 3 Comments

If the Ecological Footprint Index (discussed last week) gives one take on global development, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index provides another. It assesses the time and effort required to start, run, and close a business, and is measured on ten axes, including ease of obtaining construction permits, employing workers, registering property, getting

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