Is the World Getting Better or Worse? [Statistics]

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Factfulness" by Hans Rosling. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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If you’ve turned on a TV or read a newspaper in the last two decades or so, you’d have a pretty grim picture of the world. Terrorism. Extreme poverty. Deadly epidemics. And it’s getting worse all the time. But this view is completely wrong. Not only are things much better than we think—they’re better than they’ve ever been.

The World is Getting Better, and Less Bad

A combination of a decline in bad trends and an increase in positive trends has made the present the best time to be alive in human history.

Just take a look at some of the bad trends that have declined:

  • Slavery: Once a near-universal institution, it’s only legal in three countires today.
  • HIV: Rates of infection per million are half of what they were in 1996.
  • Child mortality: A shocking 44 percent of children died before their fifth birthday in 1800. Today this figure has been whittled down to 4 percent.
  • Combat deaths: At the height of World War Two, there were 200 combat deaths per 100,000 people. Today that number is 1, even with the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
  • Hunger: 28 percent of people worldwide were malnourished in 1970. Today, that figure is 11 percent.

And as a corollary, check out these good trends that are on the rise:

  • Women’s suffrage: At the dawn of the 20th century, almost no countries allowed women to vote. Today, 193 out of 194 do.
  • Food production: Crop yields have nearly quadrupled since 1961. This has been a major driver of the aforementioned decline in worldwide hunger.
  • Access to electricity: The share of people with access to electricity increased from 72 to 85 percent from 1991 to 2014.
  • Access to clean drinking water: More people than ever can drink safe, treated water, with that figure going up 30 percent from 1980 to 2015.

Is the World Getting Better or Worse? [Statistics]

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Hans Rosling's "Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World" at Shortform. Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll find in our full Factfulness summary:

  • Why we evolved to be negative, and why it's terrible for us today
  • Surprising statistics about how people die - from plane crashes to swine flu
  • How the world isn't nearly as poor as you think it is
  • How to think smarter about the world, and the rest of life

Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

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