Breaking prejudice with data

A few days ago, my husband, his parents and I had lunch together. Somehow we ended up talking about the cost of living in Germany and Peru. When I told them that grocery shopping in Stuttgart was significantly cheaper than in my local supermarket in Lima, their jaws dropped. They were like: ‘Nooooo….’ or ‘Bah!…. No…’. Their eyes, confused.

I get nervous with long silences, so I tried to explain further: “Peru is cheaper than Germany in general but some neighbourhoods are expensive. It all depends on the kind of lifestyle you have”. Now, what I meant by lifestyle was: Do you have to pay rent or do you live in your parents’ house? Do you have a maid or not? (this is common in Lima) Are your children in a private or a public school? Are your hobbies expensive (e.g. sailing, scuba diving)?

Thinking about Peru, what they had in mind when talking about lifestyle were things like: Does the family own a TV? What about a washing machine? Are they subsistence farmers? Very basic things. It’s true that Peru still has a long way to go in terms of development. About 20% of the population in Peru are poor. The point here is, though, that I realised how deeply embedded are stereotypes about my country in my in-laws’ minds.

I think it’s not just stereotypes about Peru. But about all the Others that conform the famous and imprecise ‘Global South’.

There are many reasons for this distorted, stereotyped view: films, books, TV shows, even touristic guides… People still believe there are two worlds. The ‘developed’ world with smaller families, higher incomes and cars. And the ‘developing’ countries with their bad public services, poverty, unsatisfied basic needs and large families.

This is not the world we live in anymore! It’s not as simple as that, we’re a much more heterogeneous world when it comes to development and data can prove it.

In the documentary below, Hans Rosling, statistician and founder of Gapminder, explains what has changed in the last decades and how the near future is expected to look like. I promise it’s not boring!!! Take some time to watch and share it. You can also create your own data sets using the Gapminder’s tools that you’ll find here.

I hope you enjoy the video and don’t panic 🙂

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