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- Credit: Data from the UN Development Programme Data Public Explorer tool
Predicting a Child’s Life
What can statistics tell us about how a British child’s life will pan out compared to a child from
We’re going to look at the stats from the UN Development Programme’s Explorer tool to test the claim that if you know the circumstances around a child’s birth you can predict how the life of that child will unfold. We’ll do this by comparing the outcomes for two babies, one born in
If we look at which other countries are also at a low level of development we can see that most of them are in
The Human Development Index (HDI) measures the average achievements of a country in three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and living standards. Health is measured by life expectancy at birth. Education is a little more complex as it has two components: one captures those who have finished education; the other those who are beginning their education. The education dimension takes the average number of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years together with the expected years of schooling for children about to enter school. Living standards are measured by the gross national income of the country divided by the population of the country, which gives a per capita or per head figure. The data from the three dimensions, health, education and income, is merged to produce one value for each country. The scores range from zero to one. A country with a poor HDI will be nearer zero and a country with a good HDI will be nearer one.
Now let’s drill down and make some direct comparisons between the lives and opportunities of a child born in
Let’s first consider the chances of a child reaching their fifth birthday. As you can see in 1970 as many as 372 children born alive out of every 1,000 would not survive until their fifth birthday in
So at 5 our babies are coming up to school age. What lies ahead of them in terms of opportunities to learn? What we see here is that both countries have seen the expected years of schooling increase over the past 30 years. Sierra Leonean children expected to receive almost five years of education in 1980, and this rose to just over seven years in 2010. This represents a significant improvement in terms of literacy, numeracy and skills development. Similarly in the
This is important, because it gives some indications of the aspirations of girls and young women and more broadly it provides some insight into the position of women in society. Becoming a young mother can be due to limited employment opportunities for women and a lack of power in relations with men. In
Now let us look at the earning potential of our two young people. We do this by taking the national income of each country and dividing by its population. This gives an average income for each citizen, but of course some citizens will earn very much more than the average and others very much less. Strikingly the income for an individual in
Finally we come to consider the end of our two adults’ lives. At what age are they likely to die? This gives us insights into a host of factors, such as nutrition, access to healthcare and how hazardous and hard their lives have been. In 1970 a Sierra Leonean baby could expect to live to 35, while a British baby could expect to live to almost 72. By 2011 a Sierra Leonean baby could expect to live to almost 48 and a British baby to 80 years. So while the increase in life expectancy over the 41 years is less in
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