Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's Wrong With This Gapminder Graph?

I'm a big fan of Hans Rosling and his Gapminder, but even his wonderful graphics program falls under the old GIGO rule, i.e. Garbage-In-Garbage-Out.

Take a look at this graph of the U.S. population (and click on the link below to work with it!) 

The U.S. population

Now, follow this link so that you can compare it with the first graph.

The immigrant population in the U.S.

Pull the slider on the first graph all away to the left, and watch what happens. The entire population disappears. Isn't that strange? What happened to the native population, i.e. the American Indians? You could say that well, they were not part of the U.S. population, but then again, why do we count the non-citizen immigrants in the second graph?

There is only so much an automatic tool can do. You still need human judgement to get it right. I'd like to see an updated map where we can see the shrinking native population as the first few rounds of (mostly European) immigrants arrive and spread. It would be a more disturbing picture, which is often the case with the truth.

Hans Sandberg

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