Calculating the economic impact of the Olympics is a Herculean task with different meanings for different authors. At its most basic, some try to estimate the effect on national output of staging the games and building the venues. More sophisticated studies attempt a proper economic cost-benefit analysis, in which the costs and benefits of building the infrastructure are measured as well as the costs and benefits of hosting the event. For London 2012, a sophisticated analysis has proved beyond most researchers.

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Crafting a reliable leading indicator is a tricky business in the world’s most mature economies, with analysts using a cocktail of different data points to try to get ahead of the curve in forecasting growth. In a developing nation, especially one that is growing and changing as quickly as China, the task is much harder because there are few consistent reference points to compare.

Yet in recent years, several leading indicators for China have garnered attention after doing a good job of predicting the economy’s slowdown at the end of 2008 and its subsequent recovery.

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Emily Cadman

Should we be most concerned about young men not fulfilling their potential, or young girls? Boys right? Barely a week goes by without concerned stories that they are being left behind in the classroom, or in the race for top degrees.

But a counter intuitive chart in today’s Office for National Statistics release on education as component of national well being, shows that isn’t necessarily the case.

It shows quite clearly that it is girls losing their way post secondary school. The spikes in the graph are Q3 data showing the immediate period post secondary school.

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Emily Cadman

An unusually snappily named academic paper – “Death has a preference for birthdays” – takes a new look at the question of social milestones and death.

The idea that some deaths can be postponed for key events (like birthdays or major festivals) first caught currency in the 1970s, and has been argued about every since. It is an idea that appeals. This statistical paper, set to be published in the Annals of Epidemiology, adds to that literature. Read more

Emily Cadman

The latest World Health Organisation statistics report has thrown a light on the unglamorous but essential backbone of health policy – accurate death reporting.

According to the report, currently only 15 percent of the world’s population lives in a country where more than 90 percent of births and deaths are registered – and unsurprisingly most of these 34 countries are in Europe and the Americas.

It’s not surprising that war torn countries like Afghanistan might have had other concerns than registration data. But the list of countries without comprehensive data include major economic and population centres like China and India – both of whom use sample registration approaches. The full country by country list is on this pdf.

WHO region No death registration
data
Low quality Medium quality High quality Number of WHO
Member States
AFR 42 2 1 1 46
AMR 2 7 13 13 35
SEAR 7 4 0 0 11
EUR 2 11 24 16 53
EMR 9 10 2 0 21
WPR 12 4 7 4 27
Global 74 38 47 34 193

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Immigration has helped to raise average wages of most UK-born workers but held back wage growth for those at the most poorly paid end of the labour market, new study has shown.

Research published in the Review of Economic Studies examined the period between 1997 and 2005, when there was an increase in the foreign-born population equal to 3 per cent of the native population.

The authors – economists Christian Dustmann, Tommaso Frattini and Ian Preston – estimate that immigration depressed wages by 0.7p per hour at the 10th percentile, or the bottom layer, of UK-born workers.

But immigration contributed about 1.5p per hour to wage growth at the median and slightly more than 2p per hour at the 90th percentile.

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Emily Cadman

What we’re reading today in the world of statistics, open data and data journalism:

It’s results day in the  UK for local and mayoral elections, which means there are a number of interesting election related posts.  As the debate in the studios continue as to the effect the poor weather had on voter turnout, the Guardian’s Polly Curtis rounds up the evidence. Read more

Emily Cadman

What we’re reading today in the world of statistics, open data and data journalism:

Reference material
The Data Journalism Handbook – the first edition of the book is now available for free online and features contributions from data journalists around the globe, including our colleague Cynthia O’Murchu who explains her investigations into European Structural Funds and care homesRead more

Political attention in recent years has focused on the renminbi’s nominal exchange rate with the dollar, with pressure on China to let the renminbi appreciate.

In fact, over time the renminbi has appreciated against the dollar, particularly when the real exchange rate – which accounts for domestic inflation relative to foreign inflation – is calculated. But the appreciation against other currencies has been much milder, especially the euro.

This interactive graphic explores how China’s real and nominal exchange rates against its main trading partners have fluctuated over time using data constructed by Eswar Prasad, professor at Cornell University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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Emily Cadman

Today’s EU foreign ministers meeting to discuss the possible relaxing of sanctions against Myanmar is the latest sign of diplomatic relations easing between the desperately poor south east Asian state and the west.

As relations improve, and investors and businesses eye up opportunities, its worth remembering just how poor Myanmar is compared to its neighbours. Read more

The global economic recovery “remains on life support”, according to Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery, the Brookings Institution-Financial Times index of the world economy.

The Tiger index, which is designed to track the global recovery on a set of macroeconomic, financial and confidence variables, shows a weakening of growth momentum in the emerging markets as well as an anaemic recovery in advanced economies. Read more

Emily Cadman

It’s perhaps no surprise that today’s UK ONS paper, a component of its measuring national wellbeing programme appears to show a nation unhappy with its work life balance, with 48 per cent reporting low satisfaction rates. It has become someone of a truism that long-hour-working Britons are unhappy with their lot. But are they really?

The most interesting part of the release is the apparent disconnect between individuals’ attitudes when they assess their work and leisure satisfaction levels separately and together.


Somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied(%)

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UK chancellor George Osborne will deliver his budget to parliament on March 21 against a gloomy economic backdrop.

But how bad are the indicators in a historical context? This interactive graphic explores some of the main indicators from the 1930s to now.

Searching for the secret of a happy life? Live in Northern Ireland, get a job and move in with a partner – but don’t worry about whether or not to have children.

That, at least, is the formula that emerges from a groundbreaking exercise in measuring the wellbeing of the nation.

Emily Cadman

Amid rising diplomatic tensions with Iran this year, the west has been ramping up its efforts to choke off Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of foreign revenues.

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Emily Cadman

PMIs – or Purchasing Manager Indexes – provide a regular way to track economic changes in the private sector.

Released on a monthly basis, these surveys of purchasing executives offer a way to gauge decline or increase in activity. Read more

A new military spending forecast from analysts at IHS Jane’s Defence suggests that China’s defence spending will accelerate substantially in the next three years.

This interactive graphic examines defence spending and gross domestic product growth in the region – as well as showing contextual numbers for the US – the world’s biggest spender on defence. Read more

Emily Cadman

Ever wondered what happened to the idea of a national happiness index, trailed by David Cameron last year?

Well, statisticians from the Office of National Statistics have been quietly working away on the project. In December the first set of initial analyses, based on a sample size of 4,200, concluded that three quarters of British adults rated their “life satisfaction” as seven or more out of 10. Read more