America is a Christian Nation. Of course it’s not in any official or legal sense, but statistically, the US remains a majority Christian nation. Americans are also more likely than most other industrialized nations to say that religion is “very important” (source). The latest surveys put Christians at 76% of the total population of the US, with 51% of Americans being Protestant and 25% being Catholic (source).

While the US has a high percentage of Christians, the percentage of adult Christians has dropped 10% from 1990 to 2008 (same source as before). At the same time, the population claiming No Religious Affiliation has grown rapidly, from 8.2% of the US in 1990 to 15% in 2008. From 1990 to 2001 the population of “Nones” (as the ARIS terms it) more than doubled. Now there are ten times as many Nones as there are Latter Day Saints in the US. The makers of the ARIS survey claim that within 20 years Americans with no religious affiliation could make up 20% of the US (source). Other polling agencies have corroborated these findings with similar results; according to Gallup, 16% of Americans now claim no religious identity (source). Finally, the biggest losers in religious growth have been Mainline Protestant groups, and to an extent the Catholic Church, according to the ARIS survey. There is an important note to make on Catholics in the US: Catholics are leaving the church and being replaced by latinos, at least nationally. As such the ARIS notes:

“Religious switching along with Hispanic immigration has significantly changed the religious profile of some states and regions. Between 1990¬† and 2008, the Catholic population proportion of the New England states fell from 50% to 36% and in New York it fell from 44% to 37%, while it rose in California from 29% to 37% and in Texas from 23% to 32%.” (source)

What I found more interesting in these surveys was how the national data broke down geographically. An earlier source (the Ipsos MORI survey) that Americans are rank religion’s importance higher than most industrialized countries (source), but this varies widely depending on what part of the US is surveyed. Gallup has a great summary of their findings on this matter: When asked “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” 65% of Americans said Yes while 34% said No. This cannot be directly compared to the Ipsos MORI survey because the question is worded differently. Instead we can simply state that Ipsos MORI found that 86% of US Christians find religion important while 66% of worldwide Christians found religion important (source).

Getting back to the importance of religion in the US, here is a map of the US showing religiosity and an accompanying chart comparing states:

One finds the least religious states in the West and the Northeastern parts of the US. here’s a look at the percentages:

A complete list of US States by importance of religion can be found here.

Another great breakdown of religious adherence in the US comes from a USA Today infographic on the matter. The page allows you to mouse over results and makes navigating the data easier, unfortunately it is not possible to imbed it on this website. Instead, I can upload some of the most interesting graphs as pictures here:

The rise of the Nones was most pronounced in the Northeast, where this article oddly places DC and Delaware in the South, I think they belong in the Northeast. The South saw No Religion grow the least. How about Catholicism?

Here we see the biggest growth in Catholics has been in states with high immigration from Latin America, like Arizona, Texas, and California. Every state in the Northeast and all but one state in Midwest has seen a decline in Catholic-identifying people. Things look worse from the remaining denominations of Christianity in the US:

Only Rhode Island and Louisiana saw growth here. Louisiana is interesting because it saw a 16% decline in Catholic-identified people during the same time, perhaps they converted to Protestantism or more likely, Hurricane Katrina reshaped the demographics of the state.

So where to most of the Nones in the US live?

Unfortunately one has to mouse over the bubbles to see the percentages, I can say that 34% of Vermont’s population identifies with no religion, while only 5% of Mississippi’s population does. Feel free to look at the infographic for complete results.

Something that surprised me was how many Northeastern states rank high on this list. The Western US has been labeled the “Unchurched Belt” yet many Northeastern states are less religious than California, or Arizona, for example. This may be due to a historic irreligiosity that the Western US states showed before the Northeast caught up. Here is a ranking of No Religion by state in 1990:

Here we see why the US West was considered the “Unchurched” part of America. Even Utah had a higher percentage of Nones than most non-Western states.

So what does all of this mean for the US, is America turning into an atheistic country? apparently not, according to polls of America’s Nones; a full 51% of US Nones believe in a God or a higher power. I think a better question is what effects will the surge in US irreligion have on the Culture War in the US today. One of the biggest issues relating to the Culture War in the US is gay rights. Gallup has a great article that summarizes Americans views on this. They found that for the first time in the US, the majority of respondents believe that gay/lesbian relations are morally acceptable. About 60% of men and women aged 18 to 49 find gay/lesbian relations acceptable, while only 44% of respondents over 50 find it acceptable. But this distinction pales in comparison to the importance of religion. Gallup found that 85% of No Religion respondents (Nones) find gay/lesbian relations acceptable. 62% of Catholics find it acceptable while only 42% of Protestants do. This makes the delta between US Protestants (51% of the US population) and the Nones (15% of the US population) more than 2 to 1, or 43%.

One of the most recent electoral outcomes relating to this was California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in 2008. The poll divided people on religious lines. One poll from the PRRI found that on Proposition 8:

“Solid majorities of Latino Catholics and white mainline Protestants, along with a majority of white Catholics, would now vote to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, while solid majorities of African American Protestants, white evangelical Protestants, and Latino Protestants report that they would vote to keep same-sex marriage illegal.”

With this I want to conclude with an idea: maybe the lines of the US Culture War aren’t drawn between Red States and Blue States, maybe they’re drawn between the most religious Protestants and the Nones. It was hard to find statistics on Evangelical denominations of Protestant Christianity, but I’d bet its somewhere around half of the Protestant population in the US. That means that in 20 years, if the ARIS projections hold, the US will find itself culturally divided, with the Nones and conservative Protestants making up 40% of the population, the rest could be dominated by more moderate Catholics and mainline Protestants. If the “importance of religion” poll indicates anything, perhaps instead of Red and Blue states. the US is most culturally divided between the irreligious West and Northeast against the South and parts of the Midwest, where religion is more important to people.

In a recent turn of events holders of sovereign debt from Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Greece have sold off some of it, which has increased the yield (amount of interest these countries will have to pay) on their debt. Italy now has to pay 5.35% interest on its debt, while Greece, Ireland and Portugal¬† now must pay 28%, 16.3% and 18.6% respectively. Spain’s debt was not affected by this recent sell-off but has a current yield of 5.65%. This news is particularly alarming because yield rates had began to stabilize before this recent sell-off. More to the point, Italy (and already struggling Spain) are much more important to the economy of the Eurozone than Ireland, Greece, or Portugal.

A look at this graph on google helps to illuminate the size of the problem. I created this pie graph to show the relative size of the Eurozone’s economies also: (red countries have been bailed out already, pink countries have seen their debt yields rise and ratings fall)

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I found these cartograms from an article in the Telegraph and was immediately impressed. The cartograms originated here and use data from the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project as to create the intriguing images. You can use the map in the previous link to look at any country’s population cartogram, here are a few that stood out to me:

First I would like to show three countries that had their national capitals moved from a heavily populated coastal city, to an inland location.

Istanbul’s historical significance cannot be understated. As Constantinople it was the seat of the Byzantine empire before becoming the capital of the Ottoman empire for centuries. But in 1923, after allies had occupied Istanbul at the close of WWI, newly independent Turkey moved its capital to Ankara.

Pakistan’s capital used to be in Karachi but was moved in 1960 to Islamabad. Perhaps this was to disperse the population of Pakistan more evenly, or to protect the government’s critical infrastructure from a naval attack.

For multiple centuries Rio de Janeiro was the capital of colonial and independent Brazil, until in 1960 when the capital was moved to the planned city of Brasilia.

Now I would like to look at examples of countries where populations tend to be focused in one place and are not evenly distributed.

Russia represents a interesting example of a nation having an East-West divide. Geographers often divide Russia along the Ural mountains, with the west often called “European Russia” and the east called “Asian Russia.” 78% of Russians live in the western part of Russia, in about a quarter of the country’s landmass.

Argentina’s population centers around its capital Buenos Aires and only small nothern cities like Mendoza and Cordoba figure.

This shows a population trend that’s been observed in the US (to a lesser degree): densely populated coastal cities and an “empty quarter” in the center. I say that this occurs to a lesser degree because the US has many large cities in the midwest and other inland locations:

Another great model for US population density comes from the Times article “Where we live.” The image was created by Joe Lertola:

The US has many big patches of population such as the Acela megaregion (AKA Bos-Wash) which includes everything between Boston and Washington DC. This appears to be the biggest patch, possibly followed by Southern California. Demographers and the like have tried to anticipate growth in the US by grouping large populations into megaregions like Bos-Wash and focusing on infrastructure and land reforms that accommodate these growth trends. One of the most obvious ones is the America 2050 initiative. This group puts out a map of what they consider to be the most important US megaregions in the next 50 years:

Here you can see that the US population isn’t quite as diffuse as the earlier cartogram would indicate. The same group estimates the population of Bos-Wash to be 49 million, or nearly a 5th of the total US population. Overall, this group says a majority of Americans live inside one these megaregions. By 2025 they predict that 75% of Americans will live in these megaregions. the regions themselves are loosely defined; for instance the “Texas Triangle” includes Oklahoma City despite it being nearly 200 miles away from Dallas or any other city in the megaregion. Similarly the “Front Range” region connects Albuquerque to Denver, a distance of 330 miles separates them. If the distance between large populations inside of these megaregions seems daunting, the distances between megaregions is an entirely different beast. Especially in the western US, megaregions are spread very far apart. Separating the “Front Range” from “Cascadia” (my megaregion : ) ) is nearly a thousand miles of mountainous frontier. Maybe the lesson from this map is that the US should focus more on connecting megaregions within themselves instead of paying to connect them with one another. This idea was actually adopted by Obama when he announced plans to build several high speed rail lines in the US. One of the proposed lines would connect Vancouver, BC to Eugene, OR with a high speed rail.

I think its important to note that models showing population trends can help convey the trends that might not be apparent to the casual observer. Once one sees how the population of a country is placed, one can start to ask how it affects policy regarding those trends.

News about¬† university rankings has taken an International Relations twist as the EU has angrily criticized two recent rankings and has allocated funding to create a new system. This was in response to a very low ranking of European universities by the UK publication Times Higher Education, and the Shanghai ranking. Having an emerging superpower like China view Europe’s universities so poorly has led to some European education ministers and university presidents to travel to China and express their concerns and promote their universities. Unlike domestic rankings of US universities (we call them colleges : ) have, these international rankings bring the prestige of a nation’s entire higher education system into scrutiny. It makes sense for countries like Germany and France to fret over these results, as both rankings make their¬† higher education systems appear to be inferior not just to the US model, but to one of the most eurosceptic members of the EU: Britain. The coalition government in Great Britain has been increasingly critical of European (read EU) integration, and the debt crisis has emboldened them continue to use a separate currency and avoid contributing to Eurozone bailouts (the UK is, by far, the largest EU member-state not to use the Euro). Lets see what these two rankings show:

Of the top 100 from the Times Higher Education, here are some results and analysis: (note: I am lazy so the colors don’t match, sorry)

Immediately it is clear that the EUs higher population and GDP (EU-wide, not Eurozone) does not produce as many top 100 universities compared to the US. But this shows only part of the problem.

Half of Europe’s top 100 universities are in the UK, an impressive feat for a country with a smaller economy and population than Germany. The United Kingdom’s GDP and population figures are very closely matched with France who does terribly on this graph. see my link above for complete results.

Finally, when we include Irish, Canadian, and Australian universities lets see how they perform, as the Anglosphere:

Once you include important universities in Canada, Australia and Ireland it appears that the world’s most desired universities are overwhelmingly English-speaking establishments. Perhaps this ranking system favors that unfairly, it is an independent publication, but it is also a British, independent publication. Russia once had a ranking system that appeared reasonable at first glance, until one found Russia’s own Moscow State University ranked higher than Harvard or Cambridge. Lets see how China’s ARWU or Shanghai Ranking rates the same regions.

The Chinese ranking or ARWU has been out since 2003, but it wasn’t until its recent battering of European universities was combined with the THE ranking for 2010 that Europe responded. Here are the same regions being measured by the 2010 ARWU/Shanghai Ranking: (note: I excluded Moscow State University from Europe because Russia’s relationship with the EU is different than Switzerland or Norway’s)

While Europe clearly does better in the ARWU ranking, the US still dominates the top 100.

Separating Britain from the EU has a similarly bad outcome for Europe, though its not as bad for Europe as the THE rankings showed. To break it down more thoroughly: France has 3 universities compared with Britain’s 11, while Germany has 5, and Switzerland somehow ties with France with 3.

Both the ARWU and THE rankings clearly favor English-speaking universities, with both giving them at least 70% of the top 100 in both cases. The ARWU ranking doesn’t rank Irish universities in its top 100, but does rank Canada and Australia’s universities with 4 and 3 respectively. While one might expect China’s East Asian rivalry with Japan to color the ranking’s view of Japanese universities, this isn’t the case: Japan features 5 universities in the top 100, with no Chinese institutions included. Rounding off the list is Russia’s Moscow State University and Israel’s Hebrew University.

The ARWU has also been criticized for favoring sciences much more than humanities, which might explain why many liberal arts colleges perform badly on this list.

Personally, I think ranking an entire university is an incomplete science at best. It’s easy to rank a university’s prestige, but sometimes that prestige doesn’t reflect a particular program’s strength at a university. For instance, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins both have highly esteemed schools of International Relations and Diplomacy but lack the similar prestige of MIT’s hard science programs, so they lose out in a ranking that favors hard sciences. I’d rather not split hairs ad infinitum over ranking systems and instead focus on the IR implications ofthe recent ranking system debacle.

European integration has been viewed by some of its proponents as a means for Europe to remain relevant in an increasingly multi-lateral world. Don’t just take my word for it, academics have written much about it. French and German politicians and academics have been especially eager to use the EU to promote this goal, and as a consequence, have been equally insecure over its prospects. While the Eurozone’s economy is smaller than the US, the entire EU membership has at least matched it recently. This has led outsiders and Europeans alike to eagerly await an example of European leadership. One of these much anticipated examples ended in spectacular failure at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change.

Europeans anticipated this would be a moment where their divergence with the US on climate change could help to underscore Europe’s relevance as an ec0-friendly alternative to US or Chinese dominance; this made the summit’s outcome exceptionally embarrassing. Prior to the opening of the summit itself was a smaller summit within the summit, where Obama negotiated with China as well as Brazil, India, and South Africa. After the summit appeared to be faltering, it was only efforts by China and the US to reconcile their differences with one another that was able to produce a final draft agreement. This was witnessed at the horror of EU enthusiasts, as it confirmed their worst fears of a world dominated by the G-2 (China and America). The fact that Europe’s failure at the summit may have been planned in advance can only add to the frustrations of European leaders. China’s importance at the summit put European aspirations of global leadership in doubt. The Eurozone debt crisis hasn’t helped matters, with Standard & Poor’s recently downgrading Greece’s sovereign debt to one of its lowest ratings.

It might seem like a poor ranking from two subjective lists shouldn’t bother European politicians and university heads as much as it has, but within the context of an increasingly desperate Eurozone debt crisis and a larger global shift towards the BRIC (the IMF predicts China’s GDP in PPP will overtake the US by 2016) it seems reasonable for such insecurities to exist.

When I was getting vaccinated for a trip to the Middle East, I was surprised to find the doctor asking me which part of Turkey I’d be visiting. She pulled out a map that looked something like this:

I was shocked because Turkey had to be the most developed country we would visit on that trip; how could they the only one where Malaria shots are necessary in certain parts. I felt even more shocked after I visited Istanbul, where its level of development seemed otherworldly compared to Damascus, Amman, Beirut, or even Jerusalem. They have a transit system that is efficient, people sort of obeyed traffic rules, and everything looked much better maintained. It felt like a European city, while the others felt like something else. I marveled at Istanbul’s unique mix of secularism¬† and development. Yet apparently for someone living in Diyarbakir, Malaria is a part of life.

What’s more startling is that Turkey’s HDI for 2010 is 0.679, behind Jordan and Tunisia and not far ahead of Algeria [source]. How could a city that seemed so modern be in a country less developed than resource-starved Jordan, who has some 13 miles of coastline and a mostly desertous landscape. Jordan’s GDP (PPP) per head in 2010 was $5,400 while Turkey’s is more than twice that at $12,300 [source]. There has been research from multiple good sources on the matter:

A great research publication called “Regional Disparities and Territorial Indicators in Turkey: Socio-Economic¬† Development Index (SEDI)” written by¬†Metin √ĖZASLAN, B√ľlent DINCER, and H√ľseyin √ĖZG√úR (found here) delves into this question with depth and authority I can’t match, so I’m going to just post some of their findings and briefly summarize them. They use 58 different indicators from myriad sources to measure provincial development and collate them into one index called the SEDI. Unfortunately this means that, like the HDI value from measureofamerica.org we cannot compare these values directly to other countries. Fortunately they do go into great detail in the article on their methodology and it appears to check out. Time for some cool maps thanks to this article.

Many things stand out. Most of Turkey’s most developed regions are in the western part of Turkey, with the lowest SEDI scored provinces all being in the east.Four Cities+suburbs stand out as the most developed provinces in Turkey: Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa. These provinces (and a province that includes suburbs of from Istanbul) have a combined population of 26.14 million, according to Turkstat. This means that of Turkey’s 73 million people, just over a 3rd live in these five most developed provinces [source]. This shouldn’t seem so troubling, when you look at the US (as we did in the previous blog) you can see its not so uncommon for states (especially ones with big cities) to score higher on development indicators. The problem with Turkey is it’s development curve among provinces is much steeper than the disparity among US states. A graph from the same source illustrates this effectively:

Istanbul’s score dwarfs the others, its more than four times that of 6th ranked EskiŇüehir province. The top five provinces themselves dwarf the remainder of the provinces.

Here is a map of the geographical regions of Turkey using the same source. I edited it to show which regions have above average and below average scores (note: mediterranean is almost perfectly at the average):

Now here is an unedited graph showing the regional SEDI scores from the same source:

This paints a picture of Turkey having three regions that this source claims, drive most economic growth in Turkey, with Marmara far outpacing the rest of the country. Meanwhile the two easternmost regions of Turkey experience the least amount of growth or development. This doesn’t perfectly coincide with the Malaria map I showed earlier, but I suspect that map was geared towards ease of use and probably wanted to include the entire southern border region to aid tourists traveling by land.

The next article I am going to use comes from the World Bank, titled “Turkey: Country Economic Memorandum Volume I ‚Äď Main Report” it can be found here and the section I will cite begins on chapter 6, page 29 (41 in adobe). This article compares regional GDP per head variation among European countries and shows its findings in this graph:

Turkey ties with Belgium, a country known for its Flemish/Wallonian divide (a north/south divide in this case). I am surprised by the other results in this publication, as I had assumed Italy’s regional GDP variation would exceed the UK’s.

This article points out that from 1980 to 2000 Turkey’s regional disparity has either increased (gotten worse) or stayed the same. It points out that while Industrial activity has expanded in the Western half of Turkey, the East remains primarily employed by agriculture, and that hours/employee are considerably lower in the East. Finally, the article gives some explanations for why Turkey’s institutions might inhibit growth in the Eastern regions; it states that Turkey’s centralized planning and allocation of resources for things like infrastructure and public works projects gives local officials few options to raise their provinces from poverty and underemployment.

A few quick statistics can be found in this report from the European Commission titled “Second report on economic and social cohesion: Regional Features in Turkey” found here. It states:

“between east and west: two-thirds of the population were concentrated in the west of the country in half the land area, accounting for 82% of national GDP, and with GDP per head 23% above the national average (41% of the EU average). In the east, GDP per head was 53% of the national average, much the same as 10 years earlier”

One word that is missing from all of these articles is “Kurd” which is surprising because Kurds make up the largest ethnic minority in Turkey with 15 million living there, most of them are located in the Eastern part of Turkey. Here is a map I found from the University of Texas here that shows where most Kurds live:,

I found another, more recent map here that looks at recent elections results in Turkey in 2011:


It’s worth noting that Turkey has a unique 10% electoral threshold that prevents most Kurdish interest parties from electing members into parliament; the easiest way to circumvent this rule is to run candidates as independents.

There seems to be a strong correlation (using these two maps and the first map) between Kurds and low development. I am not trying to imply that Kurds don’t work as hard, but simply pointing out that like Appalachia and the Mississippi Embayment, the Kurdish region of Turkey appears to lag behind the rest of Turkey. Something I would be very interested in seeing is how a partition of Turkey that removed part Eastern Turkey from the rest would effect the HDI value Turkey currently enjoys. Using the 3 sources from the beginning of this article, it seems clear that Turkey’s Western half would benefit (at least in its HDI score) if its indicators were measured separately from the Eastern/Kurdish part. Of course the political ramifications of such an outcome would be significant. I’ll leave that debate for the citizens of Turkey, be it Kurds or Turks.

One thing I’ve always been impressed with was regional identity in Rap music. Regional identity is not uncommon in other genres of music but it seems especially present in Rap (or hip hop but I hate calling it that). I don’t listen to or care about Hardcore music or other genres to be able to explain their regional variation/identity but I’ve found some interesting things w-r-t rap in the US.

I feel like I did an adequate job defining most rap regions, I’m not 100% sure Norcal should have gotten its own region and not Detroit/Pittsburgh but giving a single city a region seemed unfair. At the same time, most East Coast comes from NYC and most West Coast comes from LA. Tell me what you think.

Here’s a list of really cool albums/tracks in the rap/hip hop genre

Low Budget – Crunk in Yo System (seriously the best comp for southern rap)

The Weeknd – House of Balloons (indie hip hop)

Wiz Khalifa – Youngin’ on his grind.

Big K.R.I.T. – Country Shit (Remix) ft. Ludacris & Bun B.

more to come

recently I wrote about the trend of low HDI scores in the US South and Appalachia. This time I want to focus on a metric found from the same source. The metric of life expectancy from birth is actually a good way of comparing US congressional districts to other countries.

The CIA World Factbook has a listing of most nations’ average life expectancy from birth here. It’s important to note that because this is an actual year-based estimate, the rankings for congressional districts and countries is tightly ranked, and misreporting statistics from developing countries is a possibility. I want to stress that these are averages so while someone living 2 years less might not seem like much, but this is the result of everyone in a district/country living longer or shorter lives. Some of these statistics will make you question the world.

While I’ll mention the regional disparity briefly, I’d like to focus on the comparison of life expectancy with certain US congressional districts (CDs) and other countries as well.

Here is a map of the bottom 100 CDs in the US:

Many things stand out compared to the HDI graph representing the bottom 100, though the US South+Appalachia region is similarly represented in this map.

Firstly, the West Coast does considerably better than the East Coast, with only a single CD making the list west of Texas. Second, cities in many Eastern States have lower comparative life expectancies than their HDI suggests. Regions of the Rust Belt including North Ohio and the Detroit metro area score poorly. The mid-Atlantic cities Philadelphia and Baltimore do poorly, but the rest of the Northeast does well.

This map shows the bottom 25 districts in the US, these districts only live 72 to to 75 years on average (I’ll provide a complete table of average life expectancy later).

Much like the bottom 25 districts by HDI, the bottom 25 in life expectancy are almost all inside the US South and Appalachian regions. The Mississippi embayment and the Kentucky-West Virginia border are the worst hit.

Here is a listing of the bottom 100 districts by age. But I’ve added a column for countries with similar life expectancies for the bottom 50. I got these numbers here and here.

West Virgini 3 72.9 Egypt 72.66
Kentucky 5 73.6  Thailand 73.6
Mississippi 2 73.6 Bulgaria 73.59
Alabama 4 74.3 Serbia 74.32
Pennsylvania 2 74.4 Mauritius 74.48
Oklahoma 2 74.5 Algeria 74.5
Pennsylvania 1 74.5 Colombia 74.55
Georgia 2 74.6 China 74.68
Alabama 3 74.7 Syria 74.69
Alabama 7 74.7 Cook Islands 74.7
Louisiana 7 74.8 Hungary 74.79
Arkansas 1 74.8 Tunisia 75.01
Tennessee 8 75.0 Lebanon 75.01
Tennessee 9 75.0 West Bank 75.01
Mississippi 3 75.0  Macedonia 75.14
North Caroli 1 75.0 Tonga 75.16
Louisiana 5 75.0 ” “
Arkansas 4 75.1 ” “
Georgia 1 75.1 ” “
Missouri 8 75.1 ” “
Alabama 1 75.1 ” “
Georgia 8 75.1 ” “
Mississippi 4 75.2 ” “
South Caroli 6 75.3 Lithuania 75.34
Florida 4 75.3 ” “
Louisiana 4 75.3 ” “
Mississippi 1 75.4 Antigua and Barbuda 75.48
Georgia 12 75.4 ” “
Arkansas 2 75.4 ” “
Michigan 13 75.4 ” “
Michigan 14 75.4 ” “
Kentucky 1 75.5 ” “
Maryland 7 75.5 ” “
Louisiana 6 75.5 ” “
District of Columbia 75.6 ” “
Louisiana 1 75.6 ” “
Oklahoma 4 75.6 ” “
South Caroli 5 75.7  Ecuador 75.73
Louisiana 3 75.7 Croatia 75.79
Alabama 2 75.7
Alabama 6 75.7
Tennessee 1 75.7
Virginia 9 75.7
West Virgini 2 75.9  Morocco 75.9
Louisiana 2 75.9
Tennessee 4 75.9
Oklahoma 5 76.0  Poland 76.05
North Caroli 7 76.0
Oklahoma 3 76.0
Oklahoma 1 76.0
Virginia 3 76.0
Alabama 5 76.1
Texas 1 76.1
Ohio 6 76.2
Kentucky 4 76.3
Illinois 12 76.3
South Caroli 3 76.3
Texas 13 76.4
Tennessee 7 76.4
Virginia 4 76.5
Georgia 3 76.5 Mexico 76.47
Texas 8 76.5
Michigan 5 76.6
Tennessee 6 76.6
Kentucky 3 76.6
Tennessee 3 76.6
Indiana 7 76.6
Texas 5 76.6
Michigan 11 76.7
North Caroli 10 76.7
Missouri 5 76.7
West Virgini 1 76.7
North Caroli 3 76.7
South Caroli 4 76.7
Texas 19 76.8
North Caroli 8 76.8
Texas 2 76.8
Georgia 11 76.9
Ohio 15 76.9
North Caroli 2 76.9
Maryland 3 76.9
Indiana 1 76.9
California 2 76.9
Georgia 10 76.9
Maryland 2 77.0
Ohio 17 77.0
Ohio 9 77.0
Missouri 4 77.1
North Caroli 5 77.1
Virginia 5 77.1
Kansas 4 77.1
Indiana 8 77.1
Wisconsin 4 77.2
Missouri 3 77.2
Tennessee 2 77.2
Ohio 10 77.2
Ohio 11 77.2
Tennessee 5 77.2
Indiana 6 77.2
Texas 14 77.2

Surprisingly, many countries perform better than US congressional districts. Eastern Kentucky has the same life expectancy of someone in Thailand, think about that for a second. Not only are parts of the US much lower than the US average, they’re actually much lower than most developed countries. The US¬† ranks 50th overall on the CIA World Factbook, th0ugh a number of meaningless micro-states and dependent territories distort this ranking somewhat. US life expectancy raises many important questions about access to healthcare and our dietary habits among other things.

Finally, I want to point out that some of these statistics are hard to accept. Jordan ranks higher than the Netherlands, for example. and Bosnia, despite its violent recent history has a higher life expectancy than Denmark. I’m not necessarily accusing these countries of outright dishonesty, but perhaps their methodology was vulnerable to inaccuracies. There are hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Jordan, many of them weren’t born in hospitals so its possible that age estimates could be wrong. This isn’t the first time I’ve suspected this, in a much earlier blog on female literacy I found that the country of Georgia claims 100% literacy, despite having a GDP per capita lower than Syria, and a very rare and complicated language, in addition to smaller languages like Tsez being spoken. Take these statistics for what you will, its intriguing no less.

Unfortunately this isn’t a subject where I can compare countries and their regions to other countries. Instead, here is a selection of articles and related maps that deal with the problem of uneven growth across various counties. I want to stress that these graphs use different measurements from different time periods and thus cannot be compared with each other. I will provide links for the maps I use and give a brief summary of the research that corresponds with them.

The first example I would like to present is from a familiar source, the USA. here we can use a brilliant website designed by social/political scientists to display a variety of statistics relating to US development. using measureofamerica.org you can access an HDI map of the US that is divisible to the congressional district level. here is a state level map of the US using their latest dataset.

I got this map here it covers most US cultural regions that I accept with its omission of Appalachia NOTWITHSTANDING.

look at measure of america. wow here is the HDI of the US

this website is really interesting.

Look at what happens when you gauge obesity and diabetes in the USA:

This shows a tendency of Appalachia and southern US states to be have comparatively bad health. The West and New England do well here. How about Diabetes?

between these two maps, the unhealthiness of Appalachia stays strong. What are they doing wrong?

Diane Sawyer has some ideas about this

here are some other maps from Appalachian Regional Commission 

This shows college completion rates in the region and compares it to the US average.

Another troubled area represented on the HDI map is the US South. Breaking the region down by Congressional District allows us to look closer at regional disparity by showing disparity inside states.

Using the HDI data from our earlier source, lets see what the bottom 100 US Congressional districts look like:

It’s important to note that the bottom 100 districts is an arbitrary measure and many districts with similar HDI values were excluded. Nonetheless it includes the important bottom quintile with about 10 districts from the next lowest quintile. It also provides us with nearly a quarter of the 437 US congressional districts so I went with it. This map took a long time to make so please feel free to verify my findings here

In many states there are examples of urban poverty as well as rural/agrarian poverty being represented. In my region (Pacific Northwest) the eastern districts in Oregon and Washington are examples of rural poverty. NYC provides an intriguing example of urban poverty. The district NY-16 is one of the lowest HDI scores in the US, it sits nearly adjacent to NY-14, the district with the highest score in the US. The difference in the scores (8.79 vs 3.20) shows how geography can mean little when defining a region’s development.

But while NY-14 sticks out, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming poverty of the US South+Appalachia. To corroborate my view of the US South look to this wikipedia page

Of the 100 lowest HDI scores, this combined region contributes 59 districts (59%). When you count the bottom 50 this region contributes 30 (60%).

But when you count only the bottom 25 you get a staggering 20 Southern+Appalachian districts or 80% of the bottom 25. This map illustrates the disparity:


¬† Here’s a chart of the 100 lowest HDI scores and my Southern+Appalachian selections in red:

California

20

2.60

Kentucky   

5

2.82

West Virgini

3

3.16

New York

16

3.20

Texas

29

3.23

Missouri   

8

3.24

Oklahoma   

2

3.33

Mississippi

2

3.34

Alabama    

4

3.37

Arkansas   

1

3.39

Alabama    

7

3.46

Kentucky   

1

3.50

Tennessee  

4

3.50

Virginia   

9

3.50

Arkansas   

4

3.50

South Caroli

6

3.52

Louisiana  

5

3.52

North Caroli

1

3.53

Georgia    

2

3.55

Alabama    

3

3.61

Georgia    

12

3.66

Louisiana  

2

3.68

Tennessee  

8

3.69

California

34

3.69

Arizona

4

3.70

California

18

3.73

Texas

15

3.74

California

31

3.78

Texas

28

3.78

California

43

3.80

Illinois

4

3.80

Tennessee  

1

3.81

Pennsylvania

1

3.86

Florida    

3

3.86

Louisiana  

7

3.87

Texas

27

3.88

Texas      

1

3.89

Texas

30

3.90

Texas

13

3.92

Texas

20

3.92

Georgia    

1

3.93

Louisiana  

3

3.94

Michigan

13

3.95

Alabama    

2

3.95

Oklahoma

3

3.95

New Mexico

2

3.95

Ohio       

18

3.98

Louisiana  

4

3.99

Texas

9

3.99

Mississippi

1

3.99

Texas

19

4.01

Ohio       

6

4.04

Mississippi

4

4.04

Georgia    

8

4.06

Arkansas   

3

4.06

South Caroli

5

4.07

Alabama    

1

4.07

Tennessee  

9

4.08

Missouri   

4

4.09

North Caroli

7

4.09

Texas

18

4.10

Texas

11

4.10

California

47

4.11

California

2

4.11

Michigan

14

4.13

California

21

4.13

North Caroli

10

4.13

Tennessee  

3

4.13

North Caroli

2

4.14

Michigan

1

4.15

West Virgini

1

4.15

West Virgini

2

4.16

Texas

17

4.17

South Caroli

3

4.19

North Caroli

3

4.20

Texas      

5

4.20

Pennsylvania

12

4.22

Indiana

7

4.22

Missouri   

7

4.22

Mississippi

3

4.23

Washington

4

4.24

Virginia   

3

4.24

Oregon

2

4.26

Arizona

1

4.26

Nevada

1

4.26

Florida    

1

4.27

Kentucky   

2

4.27

Virginia   

5

4.27

Ohio

17

4.27

Oklahoma

4

4.28

New York

23

4.29

Pennsylvania

9

4.29

Indiana

8

4.30

Tennessee  

6

4.30

Texas

16

4.32

Illinois

17

4.32

Georgia    

9

4.32

Florida

23

4.32

North Caroli

8

4.34

North Caroli

11

4.34

Feel free to disagree with my assessment of the South or of Appalachia. This was excluding a large number of districts that seem to have an inconclusive regional definition. For example, Florida-23 straddles the Miami metro region and wasn’t included on the list. I only included two districts in Texas (CD1 and CD5) because the rest had mixed definitions for culture; Oklahoma-2 was the only district included. The northern district of OH-17 was excluded because only part of it is included in the ARC regional map. Missouri’s regional definition produced conflicting results but the southern districts of MO-8, MO-7, and MO-4 appear to reliably count as “southern.” The rest are 100% Southern and/or Appalachian. I wouldn’t have included Northern Virginia but none of their districts had a low HDI score so it didn’t matter.

I would first like to note that this is not comparing the relative value of either indicator. What I mean is that instead of comparing the Human Development Index and military spending relative to other Middle Eastern countries, these values can be compared to any country for the year 2007. I found the data on spending from SIPRI and HDI values from several sources (for more on these look here and here). you can find both of these on really cool graphs on google’s public data explorer here and here. Secondly, I want to note that this map cannot conform to our previous definition of the Middle East due to a lack of complete data in several countries. The omitted countries are Iraq, Oman, and Lebanon.

This map is a little bit less intuitive as each index is measuring something different. The reason they matched up evenly was because excel used tenths for HDI (best value being 1.00) and hundredths for military spending (10% being the max)

This map blows away the notion HDI has anything to do with how much countries will spend on their military in the Middle East. It becomes clear that countries have different security strategies especially when you look at the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council). Smaller countries like Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait all spend a relatively low amount on their military. While Qatar dedicates the lowest amount (% of GDP) in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia spends the most; both in terms of percent of GDP and as an overall amount. These GCC countries all have a relatively high HDI values and nothing about Saudi Arabia or the UAE distinguishes their scores. Saudi Arabia’s military spending is puzzling for many reasons but lets look at some other observations before exploring this further.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East (only the Gaza Strip has scored lower on recent HDI scores) yet it dedicates more of its GDP than Egypt, Syria, or Iran on its military. Why is this? One possible explanation could be that in order to maintain a competent military organization one needs to spend a certain base amount. Yemen’s population is about the same size as Syria, but its GDP is ~45-60% the size (depending on whether you use Nominal or Purchasing Power Parity). So 4% of GDP means as little as half as much money spent for Yemen compared to Syria. To examine this idea further I used the SIPRI’s numbers for 2007. Yemen spent $1.2 billion on its military while Syria spent $2.1 billion. Does this mean that for a country w/ a population of ~22 million one can expect no less than ~$1 billion to maintain a credible military? well it get’s more complicated than that unfortunately.

The Middle East as a region spends an enormous amount of its GDP on military spending. The countries we list here average 4.6% of GDP on military spending, nearly double the world average of 2.4%.

It would be foolish to assume that every country in the Middle East was compelled by one reason to spend so much on the military. Iraq and Iran were at war for 8 years in the 80s, with over a million lives lost, Israel has been in over 5 interstate wars, Saudi Arabia owns 25% of the world’s oil. Instead I think it would be wise look at every country’s spending and ask this question: What strategy would do the most to preserve this state’s future? I’m not advocating for militarism just trying to explain the mindset that might motivate actors in the region to spend so much on their militaries.

What happens when we apply the same measurements to South Asia, where India and Pakistan have been long time rivals?

We see that unlike China in East Asia, the economic growth in South Asia has been fueled by India with only Sri Lanka keeping up pace. Like China (and perhaps other BRICs) India has seen its military spending come closer in line with its economic dominance of the region. It’s worth pointing out that Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been spending more on their military than their economies have grown. It really is worth noting that while East Asia has been dominated by China, South Asia is dominated more so by India. While China might carry nearly twice the share in miliary and economic dominance in East Asia, Japan lingers, maintaining at least half of what China has. Pakistan, on the other hand, hardly competes with India economically or militarily. India spent ~6.6x as much on its military in 2008 compared to Pakistan.

Shockingly, South Korea’s military and economic rivalry with China is more closely matched than Pakistan’s rivalry with India. But Pakistan continues to spend a higher percentage on its military despite its economic decline. Perhaps the conflict with change in the next decade, depending on how badly Pakistan feels threatened by India’s rise.