Applying a data lens to India

Conducting a census of India is a monumental task.  The last such undertaking happened in 2011 [wikipedia].  While the raw data reveal, well, raw statistics, delving deeper into census data is a fascinating exercise.  On that note, I recently wandered upon a new weblog that is devoted to extracting insights from India’s last census.  The author, an anonymous reporter based in Delhi, has pulled some fascinating revelations.  One recent post looks at an approach to identify the clusters of wealth by districts across India:

We could start with the fact that only around 42,800 people in the country admit to an income of Rs 10 million or more to the income tax department. But almost everyone, the finance minister included, thinks that figure is laughably low. Here I want to talk about a more er…inclusive definition of the privileged.

Take a look at the map below. It maps the proportion of households in each district, who told census-takers that they own all of the following – a TV set, a phone, a computer and a vehicle (scooter/motorcycle or car). That number, for the country as a whole, is 4.6% (roughly 11 million households).

I leave you to draw your own conclusions about what it means to be ‘privileged’ in this country. I also leave you with this question: If the census takers had asked each one of these households, what ‘class’ of society they thought they belonged to, or where they fit in within the income distribution, what do you think their response would have been ( and by ‘their’, I also mean ‘our’)?

Post: We are the 5%

In another set of posts, the author dives into older census data to reveal that per capita income divergence between India and the west (especially the US) peaked at an unexpected time, the close of the ’70s:

In 1979, the difference between American and Indian per capita incomes peaked and India began a period of catch-up with not just the US, but with the West in general which continues today.  But that year also set in motion another divergence – between India and China which also continues.

Posts: 1979: When a Historic Shift went unnoticed, This is not about China or India

Each post on Data Stories provides another useful lens to apply on India’s census data.  I know I’ll be following Data Stories to see what else the census data reveal.

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