Age and politics
I guess you have heard about Sanna Marin, the youngest prime minister from Finland? Sanna Marin is merely 34 years old and yet is a prime minister. The thought of this remarkable feat at such a young age, sparked my curiosity to dig deeper. As a result, I wanted to learn more about:
What is the average age of other ministers in Finland? What is the average age of other prime ministers including cabinet ministers in other Scandinavian countries, neighboring countries, and other countries?
Well, to answer these questions, I had to use the magic of exploratory data analysis since there is too much data to explore.
I divided my project into four main sections:
- Gather all ministers’ ages for some Scandinavian, neighboring, and other countries (mainly from Wikipedia in December 2019).
- Use statistics to explore the data.
- Come up with meaningful charts.
- Write an article about this project.
Here are the countries that I chose to explore: Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Canada, and Japan.
As you can see from the chart (see below), my main efforts were spent gathering data from Wikipedia. It took nearly 5 hours (more than half of the project’s time) to format the data in a way that I can process mathematically. The rest of the tasks included, explore the data with statistics and create charts to get an insight into the data, then the final step to writing a conclusion about the analysis. In total, I spent 5 hours to gather data, 1 hour for statistics, 1 hour to set up the charts, and finally approximately 1 hour to write the article.
Steps of the project
My first step was to set up tables with the age of each cabinet’s minister. Then compile all the tables to create one main table with the following information: the minimum age, the first quartile, the median age, the 3rd quartile, and the maximum age for each country cabinet:
The next step was to visualize the result using a boxplot (a.k.a. box and whisker diagram):
From the chart above, I divided the result into three main categories:
- Green: the countries with nearly the same age range as Finland: Iceland and Norway.
- Blue: countries with very similar age range as each other but not to Finland: Sweden, Russia, and France.
- Red: outlier countries (countries with different age ranges than the rest):
- Japan, with a very old range of ministers, compared to the rest of the countries.
- The UK, with the most compact age range.
- Canada, with the widest age range of ministers.
It appears from the research that the majority of countries have ministers under the age of 40, with the exception of Japan. Four countries have ministers under the age of 35. However, Finland has the youngest ministers compared to the rest of the countries.
Additionally, I was able to conclude:
1. The age range of the British cabinet is the least significant, as 50% of the minister’s ages are between 45 and 51 years old; this means a range of only 6 years, where other countries have 50% of their ministers’ ages within at least 10 years.
2. The Swedish, French, and Russian cabinets’ ages are nearly identical, outside of the fact that those countries do not share many commonalities from a cultural, historical, or geographical point of view.
3. The Japanese cabinet has the oldest ministers among the selected countries, this could be explained by the fact that Japan has a large aging population.
My curiosity pushed me to check: what does it look like with a combination of the same ministers’ ages of each country? Therefore, I took the ages of the head of states and the most important ministers (according to me): defense, foreign affairs, justice, and finance. I combined their ages, calculated the average (the mean) of each ministry, and summarized the entire operation in this table:
It turns out that the average age of the head of state in each ministry is roughly the same: between 52 and 56 :).
I used the same table to create a chart:
From the chart, the justice ministers’ ages are the most compact compared to the rest of the ministry, as 50% of the justice ministers’ ages are between 50 and 55 years old.
Finland has the youngest head of state, but also many other young ministers. A number of neighboring countries have a similar age range such as Norway, where others have different age ranges compared to Finland but close to each other like Sweden and Russia.
I had a lot of fun during this little journey to find answers to my original questions, but this also opened up a door for further questions such as:
What are the reasons some countries have younger representatives than others?
Is the phenomenon of young politicians a new trend? If yes, is it related to the age of the voters? Or other factors?
Is this trend predictable?