Democracy and Economic Well-Being Visualizations

This is the third in a series of posts chronicling my project for the Data Management and Visualization course. This week we learned about visualizations to summarize the data.

As usual I put together a Jupyter notebook which is hosted on my GitHub project repository. It is an example of literate programming so it mixes narrative content with machine readable code. If you want to view the Python script sans narration it is available too.

Project Description

In this analysis I would like to examine the relationship between the economic well-being of a society and the level of openness.   My hypothesis is that countries with a more open society will have a higher level of economic well-being.

The data for this analysis comes from a subset of the GapMider project data.  I use the level of democratization as a measure of the openness of a country.  In order to measure the economic well-being I will be using GDP per capita data.  There were data management decisions that were made and chronicled in my previous post which would not be covered here.

Univariate Analysis

Economic Well-Being

figure_1 The income per person is unimodal and right skewed. Values range from about $100 to $40,000.  The mean is $6,600 and the median is $2,200.  There is a natural floor as it is not possible to have a negative GDP per person.


figure_3This data is categorical in nature so here’s the count of countries on the open to closed spectrum (most open on the left and closed on the right).  Most of the countries are generally open.  32 are Full Democracies and 20 are Autocracies.  These groups are especially important in this analysis.

Bivariate Analysis

Average Economic Well-Being by County’s Openness

figure_4 To look at the relationship I will compare the average economic well-being by the level of a country’s openness.  We see that the full democracies have a higher average than the autocracies.  It is also noteworthy to point out the U shape to this distribution.

Median Economic Well-Being by County’s Openness

We did observe a considerable range in the univariate analysis so I made the comparison again using the median as the measure.
figure_5 For those not accustom to box plots, the median is the line inside the box.  The median of the full democracy is higher than that of the autocracy.  One can still observe a U shape in the distribution.

I like the box plots because you can see the outliers that influence the means.


The data support the hypothesis that countries that are more open and democratic have a higher standard of living or economic well-being than those that are closed.  I would hasten to note that there is a U shape in the distribution which suggests that as a country moves from an autocracy towards a more open democracy, it might lower the economic well-being of the citizens.  As a summary I would like to present the average (mean and median) economic well-being by the level of openness.

Openness Count Mean Median
1 – Full Democracy 32 $19,290 $17,222
2 – Democracy 57 $3,425 $1,621
3 – Open Anocracy 19 $1,167 $669
4 – Closed Anocracy 27 $2,473 $591
5 – Autocracy 20 $6,114 $2,385

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