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How do we humanize data?

When comparing countries or even within countries, we can talk about GDP, Gini coefficients, poverty rates, etc., but sometimes (all the time?) it is hard to know what this really means for people. If a picture is worth a 1000 words then Dollar Street has 30,000,000 words as they “visited 264 families in 50 countries and collected 30,000 photos” resulting in an excellent example of humanizing data.

The pictures here represent the bathroom for a family in India earning $4621 per month and for a family in Egypt earning $775 per month (which is which?).  Dollar Street has large sets  of pictures like this from around the work for over 100 different categories such as armchairs, beds, computers, earrings,  floors, hands, ovens, and plates.  Difference can be explored by picture within countries or the world. These sets of pictures provide both a sense of what poverty is really like around the world, while at the same time there are much more similarities than one might expect even with seemingly large gaps in income. Take the time to visit Dollar Street.

About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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