17 December 2008

Highest death toll from recent conflicts: Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi and Somalia

Using the estimates of the Political Economy Research Institute (Univ. of Mass.), I established the countries with the top 5 deadliest recent or ongoing conflicts in the world; in order of numbers of dead, they are Congo (Kinshasa), Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Burundi. How did they fare in a Google Insights for Search face-off?

Basically, Iraq overpowered all others, mostly due to the May 2004 peak. By the way, the top 3 countries interested in Iraq were Lebanon, the US and Uganda. To get more meaningful results, I then took Iraq out and added the next deadliest country: Somalia.

Afghanistan was first, then came both Congo and Sudan. The latter displayed the only peak of the graph and well in February 2005. Burundi invoked little Googling.

Again using PERI's estimates, I gathered the no. of dead, the dead as % of population as well as the relative Google-popularity scores (I extrapolated Iraq):

First, I plotted no. of dead against dead as % of population, using the Google-popularity score to determine the size of the bubbles:

Note that the polynomial trend line is a pretty good fit. For most countries, a higher no. of dead meant a higher dead as % of population. Congo, however, was the obvious exception. Next, I bubble-plotted no. of dead against relative Google-popularity (bubbles determined by dead as % of population):

The trend line didn't fit well at all this time; but this was probably due to Iraq being an outlier because of extreme interest, comparatively speaking, in Anglo-Saxon countries that were also the most actively involved in the country. So maybe we should've excluded Iraq?

The correlation was now good, very similar to the first bubble graph. Congo was again a bit of an exception. Finally, I plotted relative Google-popularity against dead as % of population with the bubble size reflecting the no. of dead:

While leaving the Iraq outlier out, we obtained the best-fitting trend line of all bubble graphs. In other words, Google-popularity and dead as % of population were highly correlated.


  1. It seems there is no inclusion of Palestine?
    Has there been an attempt to measure the struggle of people over 50 years span in any country?
    Has there been any attempt to enter other measuring elements like embargo on medicine and food, the number of check points and walls???

  2. Sorry I haven't reacted earlier. The main reason for the omission of Palestine is that PERI doesn't list it. Also, I'd have a hard time measuring the interest in the Palestinian conflict as there's no obvious unique keyword I could use: Palestine, Gaza, West Bank, Occupied Territories, ...? I agree that it would be interesting to investigate further. Thanks for the comment!