Most of my 2020 has been spent looking for data that illuminate the impacts of Covid-19 across the world. As Quartz’s data editor, it’s my job to find interesting and trustworthy statistical information for our reporters that show the impact of the pandemic on our health, governments, economies, and lives.
Fortunately, the research and journalistic communities have stepped up to produce an incredible number of timely, reliable resources to quantify those impacts. Some of these resources involve Herculean feats of data aggregation from governments around the world. Others rely on fast turnaround information, like credit card payments and cell phone movement, to more quickly track changes than the government typically can.
The following list highlights some of the very best of those resources, and why they are essential.
While there are a number of groups tracking global coronavirus cases, none have done it quite as clearly and comprehensively as the Financial Times. Many organizations now track cases and deaths by country, but what separates the Financial Times tracker is its free, easy-to-use interactive, which provides simple comparisons between countries. In addition, rather than just looking at official death counts from governments, the newspaper also examines how death rates in 2020 compare to normal levels, a data point referred to as “excess deaths” in public health. This allows for a clearer picture of the damage coronavirus has wrought, because it includes deaths that might not have been officially recorded as having been caused by the virus.
The website Our World in Data offers the most comprehensive data on how governments are responding to Covid-19. In partnership with Oxford University, Our World In Data collects and publishes 17 indicators of government policy for more than 180 countries, including rules on public gatherings and international travel. They also put together an overall “Stringency Index” for each country, and make it easy to examine the trajectory of how strict government responses have been over time. It is updated daily.
The duration of the pandemic is largely a function of how quickly effective treatments can get to market. The Milken Institute, a US-based think tank, is keeping a comprehensive list of all the different types of treatments in development, including vaccines. The tracker follows each treatment’s stage in the development process, but also offers simple explanations of how different treatments work. Unsure of the difference between a “DNA-based” vaccine and one based on an “inactivated virus”? Milken has you covered.
Since April, the Imperial College of London and YouGov have collaborated to survey people in 29 countries weekly about how Covid-19 is impacting their behavior. They offer a useful tracker to parse through the data. The survey demonstrates trends in decision-making, from comfort with public transport to hand-sanitizer use. For example, the data show the share of French people who say they always wear a mask outside the home jumped from 19% at the start of April to 80% in the first week of September, while it’s gone from 19% to 73% in the US.
There is no better resource to track the pandemic’s economic impact than the data collected by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development). The OECD data dashboard wasn’t created for Covid-19, but it still remains the most reliable information on how countries’ economies are changing, updating whenever governments release new sets. The OECD, a club of wealthy nations, collects data for its member countries, as well India, Brazil, and Russia (China, unfortunately, is missing). It’s the best place to find official numbers on GDP growth, unemployment rates, and inflation. (The Atlantic Council, BBC, and Financial Times also offer great economic data trackers.)
Though it was made well before 2020, the best tracker for assessing the pandemic’s impact on global trade is this map created by the International Trade Centre. The site allows for a detailed look into a country’s exports in terms of the quantity of goods that are flowing and where they are going. Wondering if gym shut down orders have US exercise bicycle imports growing? Trade Map is the place to look.
There is no better way to gauge the US recovery from the pandemic than the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, created by researchers at Harvard and Brown Universities. Using aggregated data from private firms, like credit card companies and job listing websites, this tracker offers insights on consumer spending and job postings that are much more up-to-date than government sources. They even have data at the state and county levels. The elegantly designed dashboard also makes it easy to find specific data points, like how much people in San Francisco are spending at restaurants.
If the coronavirus had happened a few decades ago, it would have been difficult to track just how different people’s lives were, and to what extent their movements were being restricted. Today, it’s as simple as looking at their cellphones. Starting in April, Apple and Google made public data on how much people were using their respective map apps to get directions, in comparison to the period just before the pandemic. Data are available for most large countries, as well particular cities and regions.
For example, Apple’s data showed that map requests in Italy were down by 70% in April compared to January. They have since recovered. The Google data are particularly valuable for assessing the state of a region’s economy, because they show changes in trips planned to different types of places, like offices, stores, and public parks. (For US-specific data, the cellphone data company SafeGraph offers even more detailed information, like foot traffic to specific stores, including Walmart and Starbucks.)
Finally, though it’s not a data source, you should also check out Quartz’s “Coronavirus living briefing.” If you don’t mind us bragging for a bit, it’s one of the best places to find statistical insights about the impact of the pandemic across the globe.