Friday, January 25, 2013

"It's like, Wow!"

Sorry for the silly title. That's a quote from one of the articles below, and I chuckle every time I read it.

A few classes ago I suggested that there are very few things that are either "all good" or "all bad". One of the first and most important lessons from economics is that just about everything in life has tradeoffs. Absolutes are rare. Opportunity costs are ever-present.  Even the most well-intended policies will result in costs imposed on some sectors of society.  Of course, for every rule there is an exception. The education of girls as a means to fight poverty is probably one of the true unequivocal "win-win" prescriptions that we know of. 

Below are some recent stories from the popular press. We'll get into more academic analysis of the issues later in the term.  Can anyone come up with a good gapminder graph to help us take a look at these issues?

Educating women to fight terrorism from the LA Times

Marked decrease in fertility rates in Afghanistan from the Asbury Park Press

Online education, MOOCs and empowerment of women from the LA Times


  1. Gapminder 1:
    Y= Children per woman (total fertility); X=Literacy Rate, adult female (% of females age 15+)
    >Obviously, a strong correlation between fertility and literacy (inversely correlated, i.e. high female literacy rates tend to correspond to low fertility rates). Observations run from 1975 to 2010 with some omitted countries during the beginning and end of the play cycle. The convergence point for most developed countries is around 1.6 children per woman and an approximate 99-100% female literacy rate. Sub-Saharan Africa still struggles with some literacy ratios in the 20-70% range and a common trend of over 4 children per woman.

    Gapminder 2:
    Y= Children per woman (total fertility); X= HDI (Human Development Index)
    >Although there are quite a few other X-axis choices I could have made, I went with the HDI for this one. Since HDI concerns health, education, and income as its main factors, I wanted to observe any correlations between a comprehensive index and fertility rates. Similar correlation: a higher HDI tends to group with lower fertility rates. High births per woman can easily be seen as affecting female health, child health, and thus the health portion of the HDI. Again, high birth rates can stymy attempts by females to gain access to education, thus affecting the corresponding factor of HDI. There's also the income factor, and that connection is also very clear.

  2. My idea for a gap minder graph would be:
    Y= children per woman
    X1= enrollment rate of girls in primary school
    X2= completion rate of girls in primary school

    The reason I would want to create two graphs with the same Y variable and different X variables to see the difference between the effect of enrollment and the effect of completion primary school on birth rate. More schooling usually lowers birth rate in the developed world because women wait longer to have children. Also, schools in the developing world teach women and men about safe sex, lowering the risk of teenage and adolescent pregnancy.

    I found the article "Setting the online example in educating women" (Lisa L. Martin) very interesting in that it gives hope for both education and women empowerment in developing countries. One point that wasn't touched on in the article was how distance education could make education in dangerous areas safer for teachers.

  3. Hans Rosling gives a great TED presentation which provides an interesting perspective. That the integration of washing machines and electricity gives women, in developing nations, more time to educate themselves and their families. Dr. Rosling uses his own grandmother as an example where having a washing machine gave her more time to read to her children and learn english. Hans Rosling is also the co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation.