A world of convergence (according to Hans Rosling)

Here is Hans Rosling’s extremely popular video where he presents a world of reducing inequalities (also available on TED talks). His argument has been criticised on the following points:

  • On the horizontal axis, the distance between $400 and $4000 is the same as the distance between $4000 and $40000 (this is called a logarithmic scale). It can be argued that this is misleading. He says that most countries are now in the middle (and he points at the middle of the graph). These countries appear in the middle of the graph, but in reality they are not in the middle of the income gap. Because of the logarithmic scale, most countries are in the lower income range.
  • One reason to use the logarithmic scale is to expand the lower range, in order to see what changes might be happening there. This is probably why he did it, to show that things seem to be moving at the bottom. According to other studies, the gap between nations is bigger now that it was 200 years ago. They are not converging. Wealthy nations have grown at much faster rates than poor nations. If you add up the per capita incomes of the richest 20% nations and compare that to the per capita incomes of poorest 20% nations, the gap is growing (see The cat chasing its tail (Me)).
  • FInally, he shows the per capita incomes of different countries. It can be argued that this is also misleading, because that mathematical average does not say anything about what is really happening to the gap between poor people and wealthy people living within those countries. For example:

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