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Most Popular World Bank Charts Of 2017: Youth Bulge, Stunting, Disasters

Since 2015, Tariq Khokhar, a data scientist, has been compiling an annual list of top charts from the World Bank. It's a mix of the group's most popular research and what's been trending in the news that year.

The list of charts for 2017, co-produced by his colleague Donna Barne, paint a "pretty good" picture of the world, "as most of human progress has been in the long run," says Khokhar. For example, it's easier than ever for entrepreneurs to start a business.

"But it's clear that there have been events and situations where people are struggling," he says, citing the number of catastrophic natural disasters last year.

While the charts don't reflect 2017 data — there's a lag between collecting and producing the facts and figures — "it's still representative of the current state of affairs," he says. Here's a selection of charts on topics we cover in Goats and Soda.

Counting up natural disasters

In 2017, it seemed like the number of catastrophic natural disasters would never end. The U.S. saw back-to-back hurricanes. The South Asian floods last summer affected more than 45 million people across the region. And mudslides in August killed an estimated 500 Sierra Leoneans. But it wasn't just a case of one bad year. Despite a drop in numbers in the past decade, the overall trendline for weather-related disasters has been on the rise.

According to EM-DAT, a global database on natural and technological disasters, there were four times as many natural disasters in 2016 than in the 1960s. Disasters are counted in the database if there more than 10 have been killed, more than 100 affected, a state of emergency declared or international assistance requested.

The data comes from groups like the U.N., governments and the Red Cross, which has documents on disasters dating back to 1863.

The latest word on the youth bulge

In most of the world, the population of people ages 15 to 24 is shrinking. But in sub-Saharan Africa, numbers have been steadily rising.

For Khokhar, the data is worrying. "With all this talk this year about the future of work and robots taking our jobs, we forget that there's a whole cohort of youth entering the labor market," he says. "There may not be any jobs when they get there."

Still, he's hopeful that population boom could inspire job innovation. "It's a potent reminder that there are a whole lot of young people who could do a whole lot of interesting things in the world."

The business of startups

This chart shows the average number of days it takes to start a small or medium-size business, by region. According to the World Bank's 2018 Doing Business Report, the amount of time has been cut in half in 15 years, from 52 days in 2003 to 20 days in 2018.

Many countries are eager to see where they place in these rankings, which the Bank puts out annually, because "they want to be seen as a better place to do business," says Khokhar. "It encourages companies to move to their countries and open up shop, creating jobs and boosting economic growth."

Good news for children

Going hungry can have lasting impact on children. Poor nutrition can slow physical growth and cause cognitive delays. Yet despite the famine and looming famines in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen in 2017, the number of children globally who are stunted has been declining since 1990.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the exception. According to the World Bank, the number of stunted children in the region increased from nearly 45 million in 1990 to 57 million in 2015. To be fair, says Khokhar, the rate of stunting in sub-Saharan Africa is actually declining, but the number of kids affected has gone up because of the high birth rate.

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Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.