Visualizing Social Mobility in the Developing World

Undergraduate course, Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy, 2018

This course (sponsored by Duke’s interdisciplinary Bass Connections initiative) involves students synthesizing disparate indicators of social mobility and applying best practices in visualization and information design to ensure that complex information gathered in results from research are accessible to a global audience.

My Contribution

• Led lectures on user experience research, prototyping, usability for 15 students. • Promoted student self-confidence by equipping with design thinking tools for data visualization.

Student Experience

The students work with multidisciplinary project leaders (instructors) to collect data from disparate sources and create a visual, accessible social mobility data hub for developing nations. This hub will provide a living resource for researchers, policy practitioners, media and the general public to learn more about social mobility in multiple countries.

Each student team member looks within one country that s/he selects in consultation with the project team, and scours a variety of sources for potentially useful data. For instance, a student may look at the composition of CEOs (or legislators) in a country, or new entrants into elite (and nonelite) educational institutions, or members of the national football team, and undertake supplementary searches (including individual interviews) to uncover evidence of significant social mobility. Do people who were born in slums or in poor rural families also find representation? What is the relative share of people with advantaged and disadvantaged upbringings? What mechanisms enabled the rise to high positions of individuals who were disadvantaged? What was the role played by government policies and other organizations? Each of these country-specific findings are then visualized in simple-to-read yet analytically powerful messages.


Compiled datasets, white papers on social mobility in individual countries, website and additional communication products (visualizations, infographics, multimedia content) that translate research results for a broad audience