I am a 25-year-old data journalist at The Economist. Along with our team of coders, writers and designers, I help to produce data-driven stories for the newspaper. These are usually published in our Graphic Detail section, which is dedicated to quantitatively ambitious and visually striking articles.
The stories that I have most enjoyed working on have been those for which I have constructed novel datasets, and then used statistical models to answer interesting questions. Over the last year, I’ve been able to tackle a wide range of political, economic, social and cultural questions, such as:
What makes a country good at football? Ahead of the World Cup, I built a model that predicted historical results between national teams, using their GDP, population size and level of grassroots participation. I also devised a variable to quantify a country’s interest in football relative to other sports, using search data from Google Trends.
Which countries are most likely to fight wars? For the centenary of the armistice, I combined several historical datasets of conflicts with GDP and polity variables. I found that countries of middling income and democratic freedom were most likely to be sucked into armed conflict, a conclusion that clashes slightly with the academic consensus. (I asked several political scientists for their input, and published my methodology on GitHub.)
What is driving the surge of populist parties in Europe? After combining ideological ratings from the Chapel Hill expert survey with voting data, I found no consistent link between gaining popularity and policy positions on immigration or the economy. There was, however, an association between gaining votes and criticising the EU or “elites”.
Do football managers matter? I used an unusual measure of player skill – ratings from the FIFA video game series – to project how well clubs ought to perform. Few managers were able to consistently overachieve relative to the skill of their squad, which suggests that their impact is smaller than is generally believed.
Is Google biased? After Donald Trump accused the platform of discriminating against conservative websites, I scraped search results from Google’s news tab. I found that left-leaning publications do show up more often, but that this variance can be explained by their higher levels of accuracy, according to public surveys. (A more detailed analysis on this subject is forthcoming.)
Why do some countries have more liberal abortion laws than others? Ahead of Ireland’s referendum, I built a model to predict a country’s legal position based on an index from the Guttmacher Institute. I used Pew’s polling data about religiosity and economic data about women in the workforce. My model suggested that Ireland’s laws were less liberal than expected.
How long is the perfect book? I scraped ratings data from Goodreads for classic books, which suggest that longer works are rated more highly than shorter ones.
What makes this project innovative?
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Source and methodology