A) Almost doubled
B) Remained more or less the same
C) Almost halved
The correct answer is C. That’s right, in just the past 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in the world has almost halved.
But I bet a lot of you didn’t give that answer. I’m making that bet not because I’m Nostradamus, but because I have recently been introduced to the work of Hans Rosling. Rosling was a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker, and one of the things he focused on in his later career was using statistics to argue that the world is, in many ways, better than we think.
Here are a couple of TED Talks by Rosling that show how great he was at spreading his message of well-documented positivity:
If you aren’t able to watch the videos, here’s some facts that may surprise you: Over time, the world has seen substantial increases in key indicators of progress such as: literacy, democracy, women’s right to vote, immunizations, and my favorite, guitars per capita.
Meanwhile, the world has seen decreases in: oil spills, plane crash deaths, deaths from disaster, ozone depletion, and hunger, to name just a few.
Those are incontrovertible facts backed by mountains of data. And yet, many of us, myself included, can have trouble believing they are true. Furthermore, we tend to have a very pessimistic and dim view of the world and the progress we are making facing our biggest challenges.
Why do we have such a hard time believing things are getting better? Rosling argues there are multiple reasons:
- Humans have an instinct to notice the bad more than the good,
- we tend to romanticize the past and feel that things aren’t as good as they used to be, and
- we are subjected to never-ending cascades of negative news from across the world.
I’m motivated to change some ideas at least in part because I recognize that I often use this blog to point out some of the aspects of those services that aren’t so great. I don’t apologize for that, as we can always do better, but I do want to acknowledge the amazing progress we’ve made. So here goes:
- Between 1977 and 2010, the number of residential settings that served people with I/DD increased by a remarkable 1,598 percent, with most of these new settings being small and privately operated.
- In the same date range, the number of home and community-based services recipients outpaced residents receiving specialized Medicaid licensed intermediate care facilities (ICFs/IID) by 676.1%, while the number of people receiving ICFs/IID care decreased by 63 percent.
- The number of people with developmental disabilities in public institutions declined from 149,892 in 1977 to 51,485 in 1999.
- Ninety percent of individuals with I/DD now live in a setting with 15 or fewer people, 75 percent of which reside in settings of six or fewer residents and 49 percent in settings of three or fewer residents.
If you’d like to learn more, the links below help provide stats and background for this post.