Statistics of the Year 2019: Winners announced

The RSS has today (19 December 2019) announced the 2019 Statistics of the Year.

Now in its third year, the Statistics of the Year competition invites nominations of key stats that shine a light on important issues that affect everyone as well as reflect changes that are happening around us. This year's winners and highly commended stats cover a wide range of issues, from poverty to life expectancy; CO2 in the atmosphere to the amount of sugar in our soft drinks. 

The winning UK Statistic of the Year is 58%: the proportion of those in relative poverty who live in a working household (source: Institute for Fiscal Studies (PDF) based on Department for Work and Pensions figures). The judging panel chose this figure as it highlights both the growth of in-work poverty and the need to rise to fresh welfare challenges. The last 20 years have seen a major shift in Britain, from poverty being largely seen as a problem of unemployment to an issue that is now seen to afflict working households too.

'This stark statistic really highlights one of the biggest issues facing the UK - in-work poverty,' said judging panel member Kelly Beaver of Ipsos MORI. 'While it could be seen as positive that more people are in work, this figure shows that employment doesn't necessarily mean an escape from poverty. Far from it, in fact.'

The winning International Statistic of the Year is 72.6 years: the estimated global average for life expectancy at birth in 2019 - a new record high (source: Our World in Data). Statistics from Our World in Data show that life expectancy has risen from 45.7 years in 1950 to 72.6 years today. On average this equates to life expectancy rising 20.3 weeks per year since 1950.

'This statistic is powerful in that it paints the bigger picture,' says Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter. 'While much focus has been on life expectancy in specific countries, many may have missed the more positive news that life expectancy across the world has steadily improved to reach a record high.'

Watch: RSS executive director Hetan Shah explains the significance of the winning stats.

There were also a number of 'Highly commended' statistics: in the International Statistics of the Year category they were:

415.26ppm: the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - in terms of parts per million (ppm) - as measured, in May 2019, at the Mauna Lao Observatory in Hawaii (source: Science Alert).

54 deaths per 1,000: the fall in under-five child mortality rates, globally, since 1990. World Health Organisation figures show that the figure fell from an estimated 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 39 deaths per 1,000 in 2018.

73%: Women car passengers wearing seatbelts are an estimated 73% more likely to be seriously injured in frontal car crashes than men (source: University of Virginia and highlighted in Caroline Criado Perez's book, ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’).

The following statistics were 'Highly commended) in the UK Statistics of the Year category:

-28.8%: the change in the average sugar content of soft drinks following the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (source: Public Health England).

10.3%: Electric and hybrid models now account for more than one in 10 new vehicle registrations in the UK - with the 10% threshold being passed for the first time in November (source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders).

While some of the statistics help to summarise concepts or phenomena that are already widely known, some are unexpected. 'Statistics have a remarkable power in their ability to help us understand the key issues of the day,' commented RSS VP Jennifer Rogers, who chaired this year's judging panel. 'This year’s winning and commended statistics capture some of the zeitgeist of 2019 and demonstrate just how enlightening statistics can be.'

Many thanks to our judging panel and also to Stats Ambassador Anthony Masters for his help in checking the stats.

Follow the hashtag #StatsoftheYear to follow the online discussion.

The RSS will be announcing its Statistics of the Decade (2010-2019) next week - watch this space and follow #StatsoftheDecade for the announcement!

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