The autumn of information literacy (1): statistics

11 Oct

No end of season (or worse) meant with the title, autumn just being my busiest time with information literacy courses and workshops, and therefore the richest in opportunities to expand my knowledge for answering students’ and staff’s questions.

autumn leaves oxford botanic garden Photo from the website of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden

I was asked sometime ago about how to find statistics for GDP per capita (Gross National Product) and unemployment rates in 15 West European Countries for the period 1945-1960. After having quickly overcome a brief feeling of disorientation, somehow occurring to my “humanities side” anytime I am dealing with figures, numbers and measurements, I eagerly took to work and found the following:

GDP per capita
– the University of Groningen‘s Maddison Project offers complete data from 1870 not only for European Countries but for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States as well; data for older years are irregularly available, and the same applies to recent data for East European Countries and other continents.

– data from as early as 1500 can be generated for all Countries in the world at Clio Infra, a joint project from among others the International Institute of Social History;

– data from 1950 onwards can be generated for all Countries in the world through the Penn World Table, offered by the Center for International Comparisons at the University of Pennsylvania.

2012-GDP per capita 2012-GDP per capita map generated at the World DataBank

Unemployment rates
– these data proved more difficult to be found (online and for free), since there is no global overview for 1945-1960 for all the 15 Countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom), in any case not according to the comprehensive University of Stockholm‘s Portal for Historical Statistics.

– partial datasets (in terms of geographic or period coverage) are also those which are available at ILOSTAT (International Labour Organization Department of Statistics; from 1969), at the World DataBank (World Bank; from 1980) and at the OECD iLibrary (from 1955), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development‘s database to which the UvA-Library has a subscription (access restrictions possible).

– given that the datasets available at the National Bureaus of Statistics for the relevant Countries proved not complete as well (with the notable exceptions of the Dutch CBS Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek and the French INSEE Institut National de la statistique et des études écomomiques), it was a relief to discover that at least printed copies of the ILO Year Book of Labour Statistics for the relevant years are still available at the Library of the earlier mentioned, Amsterdam based International Institute of Social History.

unemployment, total (% of total labor force) Excel chart generated with 2011 unemployment data (% of total labor force) from the World DataBank

One Response to “The autumn of information literacy (1): statistics”

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  1. The autumn of information literacy (2): subject search in LexisNexis | bibliocw-soc - 8 November 2013

    […] as with the previous ‘autumn’ post on statistics, the aim of the present one is to illustrate a specific search need (news on a topic, in the case […]

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