比尔盖茨:记住这三个数据将帮助你理解这个世界
2019-08-28

比尔·盖茨近期表示,记住这三个数据将帮助你理解这个世界。

OurWorldInData.org是我最喜欢的网站之一。这个网站设在牛津大学,利用关于从健康、人口增长到战争、环境和能源等方方面面的统计数据,让你深刻了解世界各地人们的生活条件正在发生怎样的变化。我邀请了网站创始人——牛津大学的经济学家麦克斯·罗瑟(Max Roser)——跟大家分享三个所有人都应了解的事实。以下的内容由麦克斯撰写。

在过去的几年里,通过快速的在线搜索,人们很容易就能找到全球发展的许多重要数据。由于现在找到所需信息变得如此容易,很多人认为记住这些数据没有意义。他们说:“需要的时候再查阅下就好了!”

我不同意这种说法。是的,对一些细节,你需要的时候再去搜索数据的确合情合理。但是对于宏大的全球发展问题,了解目前人们生活条件的基本数据,以及过去几十年中我们看到的变化趋势非常重要。了解这些全球变化的事实,能给你提供每日新闻的背景,还能让你真正理解你所掌握的新信息。而且,这也必定是政治辩论的基础,只有这样我们才能去讨论,作为一个社会整体我们应该做什么以及不应该做什么。

因此,我列了一个简短的清单,包含三条我想记住的关于全球生活条件的事实。其中每一条都描述了当前的情况和变化趋势。

事实1:自1960年以来,儿童死亡人数已从每年2000万人下降到每年600万人

想象一下看着自己的孩子死去会多么痛苦。

然后试想一下,每分钟这一情况就会发生在大约11位父母身上。这是平均每分钟的五岁以下儿童死亡数字。24小时内的每分钟都有11名儿童死亡,那每天死亡人数累计为15500人,即每年有560万名儿童死亡。

我们必须接受这一点吗?世界就是这样的吗?

显然不是。我们有很强的能力去推动积极的改变。请看下面的图表。联合国数据告诉我们,现在每年有560万儿童死亡;同时数据也向我们表明,在20世纪50和60年代,世界每年儿童死亡的数据为2000万。

我们很难看到当前世界进步的一个关键原因是,我们不知道过去有多糟糕。

这两种说法都是对的:这个世界比过去要好得多,这个世界仍然很糟糕。

为了记住这一情况,我需要同时知道两边的数据:当有人说我们可以坐下来放松一下,因为这个世界比过去好得多,我会指出每分钟仍有11个孩子死去的事实。我们不能接受现在这样一个世界。而当我在这场悲剧面前感到绝望时,我会记得在过去的五十年里,我们把每年儿童死亡的数量从2000万减少到了560万。

因此,我记得目前的儿童死亡率以及我们看到的变化趋势:儿童死亡人数正在下降,50年前儿童死亡人数是现在的3.5倍。但儿童死亡现象仍然非常普遍,平均每分钟都有11名儿童夭折。

事实2:自1960年以来,生育率下降了一半

全球人口的迅速增长并非不可阻挡。我们之所以知道这一点,是因为在过去几十年中,我们已经看到全球人口变化将终结人口的快速增长。让我们来看看数据。

下面的图表显示了认识世界人口增长情况的关键统计指标——全球生育率,即世界上每名妇女的平均子女人数。当生育率接近2,那么每对夫妇平均被大约两个孩子取代,人口增长缓慢。但是直到20世纪60年代末,每个妇女平均有5个以上的孩子。如此高的生育率,人口增长就很快。当时,每年的世界人口增长率为2%。

避孕工具的供应使得父母想要多少孩子就生多少孩子。这个数字随着人们收入的增加而变化。从几十年的人口统计学研究中,我们了解到女性在获得更好的教育和更好的就业机会时会决定少生孩子。我们还知道,当儿童死亡率下降,家庭不必担心他们的孩子会死亡时,会从一开始就决定少生孩子。

妇女生活条件和儿童健康水平的提高,促使世界各地的生育率迅速下降。事实上,在过去的50年里,全球生育率已经下降了一半,从每个妇女生育超过5个孩子减少为不到2.5个孩子。在过去的50年里,世界人口增长率也下降了一半,仅略高于1%。

我所记住的人口增长统计数据告诉我,人口的快速增长将在本世纪内结束。在过去50年中,全球生育率已从每名妇女生育5个子女降至每名妇女不足2.5个子女。五十年来,生育率已经减半。

事实3:1990至2015年间,每天有13.7万人脱离极端贫困

生活在贫困中意味着生活中许多最重要的东西都遥不可及。贫困人口往往缺乏体面的住房和基本的医疗服务,并且常常买不起足够的食物。

每天必须靠不到1.90国际元(international-dollar,一种可以校正国家之间价格差异和通货膨胀的假定货币)收入生活的人们,被认为处于“极端贫困”状态。

对于贫困的这一定义,用“极端贫困”这个词来概括显然非常恰当:这确实是一条非常低的贫困线。

当你问人们世界是否在对抗极端贫困方面获得了进展时,我们大多数人相信情况正在恶化,相信生活在极端贫困中的世界人口数量正在上升。

但事实恰恰相反,极端贫困人口的数量和比例都在下降:

1990年,18.6亿人每天收入不足1.9国际元,占世界人口比例超过三分之一。25年后,极端贫困人口减少了一半以上,降至7.06亿,也就是十个人中只有一个。

这是一个非常巨大的转变。这意味着过去25年中,平均每一天生活在极端贫困中的人数都比前一天减少了13.7万人。过去25年里,每一天都原本可以有这样的新闻标题:“从昨天到今天,极端贫困人口减少了13.7万人。”

这就是我记得的统计数字:今天,每十个人中就有一个生活在极端贫困之中,全球范围内有7.06亿。数量之多令人无法接受。但我们也应知道,趋势正在朝着好的方向发展。极端贫困人口的数量正在下降。终结极端贫困是可能的。

记住这三个关于世界的事实让我想起了为什么我认为参与全球发展很重要。关于世界现状的统计数字表明,我们不能满足于世界目前的状况,但是关于全球变化的统计数字告诉我们,创造一个更美好的世界是可能的。儿童死亡人数正在下降,人口迅速增长的挑战不会无限期地持续,极端贫困人口的数量正在减少。

让我们继续朝着这个方向前进,过去的成功应该鼓舞着我们为取得更多进步而努力。

Memorizing these three statistics will help you understand the world

One of my favorite websites is OurWorldInData.org. Based at the University of Oxford, it uses statistics—on everything from health and population growth to war, the environment, and energy—to give you phenomenal insight into how living conditions are changing around the world. I asked its founder, Oxford economist Max Roser, to share three facts from the site that everyone should know. Here’s what Max had to say.

–Bill Gates

In the past few years, it has become easy to find many of the important statistics on global development with a quick online search. And since it is now so easy to find the information you need, many argue that it doesn’t make sense to actually remember these statistics. ‘Just look them up when you need them!’ they say.

I disagree with this. Yes, for some details, it makes sense to just search for them when you need them. But for the large global developments, it is important to know some basic statistics that describe living conditions currently and the direction of change that we have seen over the past few decades. Knowing the facts on global changes gives you the context for the daily news and allows you to make sense of new information that you learn. And it must be the basis for political debate, so that we can discuss what we should and shouldn’t do as a society.

And so I compiled a short list of three facts about global living conditions that I want to remember. Each of them describes the current situation and the direction of change.

Fact #1: Since 1960, child deaths have plummeted from 20 million a year to 6 million a year.

Imagine how awful it must be to see your child die.

Then consider that every minute this happens to about 11 parents. This is the number of children, younger than five years of age, who die—on average—every single minute. Eleven deaths every minute for 24 hours add up to 15,500 deaths per day, or 5.6 million deaths per year.

Do we just have to accept that? Is that just how the world is?

Clearly no. We are very much able to drive positive change. Look at the chart below. The same UN data that shows us that 5.6 million are dying today also shows us that in the 1950s and 60s the world saw around 20 million children dying every year.

One key reason why we struggle to see progress in the world today is that we do not know how very bad the past was.

Both are true at the same time: The world is much better than in the past and it is still awful.

To bring this to mind I need to know both statistics: When someone says we can sit back and relax because the world is in a much better place, I point out that 11 children are still dying every minute. We cannot accept the world as it is today. And when I feel hopeless in the face of this tragedy, I remember that we reduced annual child deaths from 20 million to 5.6 million in the last fifty years.

So I am remembering the current extent of child mortality and the direction of change that we have seen: The number of child deaths is falling; there were 3.5-times as many child deaths 50 years ago. But child deaths are still extremely common; 11 children are dying every minute.

Fact #2: Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half.

The chart below shows the key statistic to understand about world population growth: the global fertility rate—the average number of children per woman in the world. When the fertility rate is close to 2 children per woman, so that every couple is on average replaced by about two children, population growth is slow. But until the late 1960s, each woman had on average more than 5 children, and at such high fertility rates, population growth is fast. At that time the world population increased by 2 percent every year.

The availability of contraceptives allows parents to have only as many children as they want. And that number changes as people’s income goes up. From decades of demographic research, we know that women decide to have fewer children as they get access to better education and better opportunities in the job market. We also know that when child mortality falls, so that families do not need to fear that their children will die, they consequently decide to have fewer children in the first place.

Improvements in conditions for women and the health of children have driven a rapid reduction in fertility rates across the world. In fact, the global fertility rate has halved in the last 50 years, from more than 5 children per woman to fewer than 2.5 children. The world population growth rate has also halved in the last 50 years and is just above 1 percent.

The statistic that I remember on population growth is the one that tells me that rapid population growth is coming to an end in this century. In the last 50 years the global fertility rate has fallen from 5 children per woman to less than 2.5 children per woman. In fifty years the fertility rate has halved.

Fact #3: 137,000 people escaped extreme poverty every day between 1990 and 2015.

Living in poverty means that many of the most essential things in life are out of reach. People in poverty tend to lack decent shelter and basic healthcare, and they often struggle to afford adequate food supplies.

People are considered to live in‘extreme poverty’if they have to get by on less than 1.90 international-dollars per day, which is a currency that corrects for price differences between countries and inflation.

In this definition of poverty, the term extreme poverty is clearly appropriate: this is a very low poverty line.

When you ask people whether the world is making progress against extreme poverty, the majority of us believe things are getting worse—that the number of people in extreme poverty in the world is rising.

The opposite is true. Both the number and the share of people in extreme poverty is falling:

In 1990, 1.86 billion people were living on less than 1.90 international-$ per day—more than every third person in the world. Twenty-five years later, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved to 706 million, every tenth person.

This is a very large transformation. It means that, on average, every day for the past 25 years 137,000 fewer people were living in extreme poverty than the day before. On every day in the last 25 years there could have been a newspaper headline reading,“The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday.”

This is the statistic I remember: Today every 10th person is living in extreme poverty—706 million people. An unacceptably large number of people. But we should also know that the trend is moving in the right direction. The number of people in extreme poverty is falling. It is possible to end extreme poverty.

Remembering these facts about the world brings to mind why I think it is important to get engaged in global development. The statistics on the current state of the world make clear that we cannot be complacent about the world as it is today. Especially because progress is uneven, and in sub-Saharan Africa progress has been slower, but is not absent. The statistics on global change over time tell us that it is possible to work for a better world. The number of child deaths is dropping. The challenges of rapid population growth will not continue indefinitely. And the number of people in extreme poverty is falling.

Let’s continue in this direction. Our past successes should encourage us to work for more progress.

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