Categories of Progress

I’ve recently finished reading Hans Rosling’s (posthumously published book) Factfulness. This book is a valuable examination of good analytical mental habits, especially for lay people, and I highly recommend it for your Kindle app.

What was particularly interesting to me was how they broke the world down into four categories based on consumable income. They call this “Dollar Street,” and showed how all over the world, people in roughly the same category of spending would do things in roughly the same way.

I thought we could similarly analyze places and peoples by percent Christian (in the broadest sense). While it can be challenging to know the precise % Christian of a place or a people group, we could reasonably accurately identify a general level.

Dollar Street’s categories are based on doublings. They go roughly like this:

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
32% and above

I’ve graphed the populations of each of these levels below.

The Dollar Street-style implications of this analysis can be taken further in the future; in this post, I just want to highlight something that comes out of greater granularity of data: the “hidden” nature of less-reached places.A country like India can have enough Christians in some spots to push it “a little higher” on the “level” scale (and in many other lists, too)–and yet these Christians are “localized” in a few places. So while some countries can show up on some lists as being “more reached,” the reality is inside the countriesthere are pockets of more and less reached places.

The reality is, something like a quarter of the world’s population lives in locations that are less than 2% Christian–places that are heavily unevangelized, where many can live never meeting a believer. And, another quarter of the world lives in places that are between 2% and 8% Christian–perhaps not “unreached” by some definitions, but areas where a lot of work is left to be done.

This kind of reality holds just as true for people groups and provinces as it does for countries. Inside any large population there will be more-reached and less-reached subsets. Look at Turkey: the west is more engaged than the east. Look inside Istanbul, and you’ll find the same thing.

Before anyone asks: no, my list is not publicly available; it’s internal to Beyond and some of our partners. But really, the point of this post is: this kind of analysis is not rocket science. You could do it yourself for any place where you work. Just grab a list of the provinces or districts for the country you’re working in, and for each place, ask yourself which level each of the component segments is obviously at. For most places, with a little bit of Googling, you’ll find Census data or other survey data that will help you figure it out.

I leave the exercise to you because I think it’s a needed one: it teaches us to look inside the segments, find the nuance and look for the gaps, the people who have less access. That’s a skill that all of us in mission strategy need to develop.