In my last post, I made the provocative claim that 2015 — with its rash of terrorist attacks, mass shootings, escalating geopolitical confrontations, droughts, and more — was in fact the best year in human history. And some weeks before, I also shared the latest findings of the Global Development Index, which concluded that nearly all the world’s nations have made gains in education, healthcare, and income.
Now, Vox.com offers over two dozen infographics that reaffirm an increasingly obvious trend: the average human is experiencing unprecedentedly high gains in their standard of living, with improvements in areas ranging from malnutrition to Internet access. The visual data better show just how dramatic human progress has been.
Here are just some of the heartening developments I am highlighting.
High economic growth in India and China — which together account for almost one-fifth of the world’s population — as well as in other developing nations has to a massive decline in the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day — from 53 percent over thirty years ago, to 17 percent as of 2011.
This animated map shows the changes in the Global Hunger Index from 1990 to 2014. In less than two decades, the majority of the world’s countries were lifted out of extreme hunger; as of 2014, only Eritrea had an “extremely alarming” rate of hunger.
While the number of children being exploited in the workplace remains horrifically high, it is done by over a third since the turn of the century — a rapid rate that seems poised to continue.
From 1990 to 2012, the average person gained six more years of life, with poorer countries in particular seeing the biggest increase – nine years for both men and women. While there is still a significant gap between rich and developing nations, it is quickly closing.
Not only are humans living longer, but they are increasingly less likely to die at a young age. Sub-Saharan Africa, which has long suffered horrific levels of child mortality, saw the death rate of its under-five children decline by 48 percent; in East Asia, Latin America, and north Africa, the decline was by over two thirds in the span of less than 25 years.
Similarly, death at childbirth has almost halved globally, with Africa once again witnessing the most dramatic decline.
War tends to take center-stage in public consciousness. But this is arguably sign of just how rare — and thus attention-grabbing — geopolitical conflicts tend to be. The world wars that made the 20th century the bloodiest in history actually ended up portended the decline in large-scale combat; even the spikes during the late sixties to mid eighties came nowhere close, and have since been far from surpassed.
For the overwhelmingly majority of human history, democracy scarcely existed as a concept, let alone in practice. Even when representative governments of some form or another began to emerge beginning in the late 18th century, they remained in the minority until the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended, and a wave of democratization swept the world. While the tide can certainly turn, and hundreds of millions remain under authoritarian rule, this development is unprecedented.
These are just some of the ways in which the human condition has markedly improved — and most of it has happened in just the last couple of decades! Imagine what the next ten, twenty, or thirty years have in store if we keep the trend going.
To see the rest of the data, click here or view a summary from this short video (also courtesy of Vox).