Monday, April 23, 2012

Is there a connection between Democracy & Economic Equality?

I have always wondered if there was a connection between how Democratic a county is and the level of economic equality in that county.  It is easy to think that Democracy could lead a country to being more equal since the poor would have a political voice and would most likely vote for their economic interests.  It is also easy to see how the upper class in a society could take over democratic institutions and entrench the existing economic distribution of wealth.  I decided that instead of just doing the normal google searches for academic papers on the topic this time I would actually try to do something with publicly available data.

To measure how Democratic a nation is I used the Democracy Index which is complied by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

To measure economic equality i used the Gini coefficient as put out by the world bank

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

I decided to do a scatter plot of those two pieces of data and see if any obvious correlations could be seen.

First i did all nations.

Not seeing anything obvious here.  So next i decided to just look at poorer nations.  To do this i only looked at non-OECD nations.

Again no real obvious correlation here.  Next i decided to look at rich nations so i looked at just the OECD countries.

Well there might be a very small correlation but nothing is very obvious from this.

So after all that work the results could best be described as nothing.  I didn't find any obvious correlation between level of Democracy in a country and the level of economic equality in that country.  

This doesn't mean that there is not some type of correlation.  I would almost certainly imagine there is some type of link between these two things but that this very simple exercise didn't find anything.  Both the indexes i used have their own issues which you can read about on the wikipedia pages i linked to.  Also we would probably need to look at the data over time if we wanted to really know how Democracy might influence economic equality.

If you want to look at the data i used here is a link to the google doc


Also I would love to hear what people think about the connection between Democracy and economic equality in the comments.  Do you think there might be a link?  Why or why not?

Please remember that this was a random project and should NOT be used as any type of evidence for anything.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Kickstarter the future of scientific research funding?



I love Kickstarter!  A web platform to crowdsource the funding of crazy ideas is just awesome and a great example of what the Internet was made for.  By being able to bring together people who have an idea with others who want to support/fund/mentor the idea, Kickstarter has created something really special.

Right now I want to focus your attention on one projects that I think might be very important.



What Works in Development: 10 Meta-Analyses of Aid Programs




Have you ever wondered whether aid programs actually work? Wouldn’t it be useful to know how effective programs are in achieving their objectives (e.g. reducing poverty, improving health, improving education)? This book will review the quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of aid programs in a very thorough and rigorous way, using meta-analysis. After explaining this method and its merits, each of ten chapters will apply it to a different type of aid program. Throughout, the lessons that we can draw from these analyses will be discussed using plain English.
This is a really awesome project that would fund real research into economic development.

The more interesting question is if this might be the future of funding for scientific research?  With the recent economic downturn and the fact that science does not appear anywhere near the top of the list of priorities for the major political parties in the United States, science funding will probably only get smaller in the foreseeable future.  This is forcing many researchers to get a little more creative with finding ways to fund their research.

Will the future of scientific research funding be kickstarter?  For most research i would say no.  The amount you can actually raise is still way to small for most fields and I am not sure how people would feel about raising a ton of cash for a project that ends up not yielding any results.  The place where this type of funding might work though is in the Social Sciences.

The project I linked to above is a great example of a research project that doesn't need much funding and could have a real impact.  Unlike the harder sciences which tend to require a rather high cost to doing research, Social Science tends to be cheap.  When I was working on developing the Occupy Portland Survey I actually thought about putting up a Kickstarter.  Honestly just $1000 would have be amazing and we could have done so much more and would have a finished report by now.  Unfortunately we went the crazy cheap route which means everything takes much longer since we are a 100% volunteer effort and everyone is already busy.

Since I now know just how important a few dollars can be to doing research, here is a list of Kickstarter like sites that specialize in Science/Engineering.  I HIGHLY recommend getting involved in these communities.  You don't often find a place where a small donation of $5 can much such a huge different.  Also just tweeting about the interesting things you find can mean so much for a project.




Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Word Cloud of the responses to "What frustrates you the most about the political process in the United States?"

I was playing around with the data file from the Occupy Survey we did and ended up making this word cloud of the responses to Question 28 "What frustrates you the most about the political
process in the United States?". I thought it was interesting so here it is.



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Occupy Portland Survey Data File

One of the reasons I started this blog was so I would have a place to release information related to the survey I helped do of the Occupy Portland Camp on November 12th, 2011.  Which was the same day Occupy was evicted from Lownsdale and Chapman Square.

Since that time I have not had a lot of time to work on this project.  Between work, family, applying for grad school, and a few health issues, I just have not had a lot of time to work on this.  But I wanted to make sure that people who wanted to take a look at the raw data would have an opportunity to do so.  Which means i am releasing the data!

We ended up getting 134 people fill out at least some of the rather lengthy survey we created.  

If you want to look at the survey we used you can download it here (http://bit.ly/H5YgJB)  We based it off a survey that was done at the New York Occupy camp (http://bit.ly/HuJdhZ).

We are still working on the report of what we found.  If you would like to help us with the report or just look at what we currently have please contact me at cameron.mulder@gmail.com.

Please feel free to post in the comments anything interesting you find in the data file.  I consider this data to be completely in the Public Domain so please feel free to use it for any project you would like.

Occupy Portland Survey Data File (ODS format) - http://bit.ly/HxslTd 

Occupy Portland Survey Data File (Excel format) - http://bit.ly/HGnEZa

UPDATE:  I am going to start posting anything interesting i find on my Twitter feed https://twitter.com/#!/mulderc