2020: The year in 20 (nerdy) graphs

Kenza Bouhaj
6 min readDec 30, 2020


In this blog post, I teamed up with Eleno Castro to tell the story of this eventful year in 20 graphs. Most of the graphs in this post are borrowed from other sources (all properly cited), and a few are constructed based on available data. While we did not include any graph on the global coronavirus caseload or the death toll, we recognize the immense pain associated with the loss of every human life.

1. Zoom became a staple for every internet user; its stock experienced explosive growth

Source: Google Stocks: Google Finance

The Zoom stock started the year at USD 68.72 on January 2, 2020, and slowly began its meteoric ascent, until it reached its peak on October 19 at USD 568.34, a 7-fold increase (a 727% increase, to be precise). Since then, the stock stumbled and settled to its late-summer level, at USD 375.17 on December 24, 2020.

2. Air Travel was almost wiped out

Source: World Bank Data on Air Transport and Authors extrapolation

From global lockdowns, extensive border closures and travel restrictions, to individuals’ fear of the virus spread, air traffic dropped by ~92% in 2020.

3. People‘s mobility decreased drastically

Source: Google Mobility Reports

People’s mobility trends have fallen since March, starting in Italy where the coronavirus struck first. Throughout the year, mobility has remained below pre-pandemic trends for all selected countries, except Australia, which recently reached positive values.

4. A new accessory emerged: The Mask

Source: The BBC

The number of mask users increased considerably. In Singapore about 9 out of 10 people report wearing a mask, up from 25% in March. In countries like the UK and Australia, the mask -wearing trend did not pick up as strongly.

5. Extreme poverty increased throughout the world

Source: Word Bank

During this year poverty increased worldwide, in 2021 it is estimated that the number of poor people will be similar to the levels of 2016 or 2015, the equivalent of losing at least half a decade in poverty reduction.

6. Health spending is crippling households’ finances

Source: World Bank

Health spending has pushed already vulnerable populations further into poverty, across the world.

7. Some industries were hit badly: the tourism industry is a prime example

Source: Statista

The graph above shows the change in global Airbnb reservations in Q1 2020, as compared to the same period in 2019. Reservations declined at an alarming rate, almost to zero in the 14th week of 2020.

8. Sports revenues dramatically decreased

Source: Statista

The graph above shows the decline in sports merchandising revenues between 2019 and 2020: revenues were almost cut by half. Moreover, sports shows were severely affected by COVID restrictions in many countries. The cancellation of sports shows around the world is estimated to have resulted in a decrease in revenue of approximately 46%.

9. Hollywood’s box office earnings almost disappeared

Source: Wikipedia’s List of Hollywood movies made by year

Having experienced steady year-over-year increases from the past 5 years, the box office earnings of the top 10 released movies declined dramatically in 2020, reaching a small fraction (17.5%) of 2019’s earnings.

10. Fewer people were able to work in 2020

Source: The ILO

During 2020 fewer hours were worked. Moreover, it is estimated that this will cause a drop in global income by 10.7%, with a particularly higher drop for lower-middle-income countries. Loss of hours worked includes: cutting hours of work, being employed but not working, and unemployment.

11. More people experienced mental health issues this year

Source: Statista

Mental health deteriorated during the pandemic. A study carried out by Commonwealth Fund and research firm SSRS indicates that 1 in 3 people in the United States and approximately 1 in 4 for Canada, UK and France report feeling stress, anxiety and sadness.

12. To address the pandemic, governments worldwide reduced interest rates, some reaching negative territory

Source: Visual Capitalist

To mitigate the economic and social effects of the pandemic, many countries chose to lower interest rates, especially the United States, which decreased by 150 basis points. Monetary policy is one of the many tools that countries have used to combat the pandemic in 2020.

13. Fiscal stimulus packages exceeded those used to address the 2008 Global Financial Crisis

Source: McKinsey

The stimulus packages administered to address the Global Recession of 2008 look minuscule compared to those deployed this past year.

14. To face the pandemic, debt-to-GDP ratios ballooned for households, governments and corporations

Source: The Visual Capitalist

The economic crisis of the pandemic forced countries to borrow more. It should be noted that households, companies and governments were all acquiring more debt during 2020. The countries that increased their debt the most were Canada, Japan and the United States.

15. Some industries experienced fast growth

Source: ibis world

The fastest growing industry, according to Ibis World, is the global respiratory ventilator manufacturing industry, which saw its revenues increase by 54% in 2020 compared to 2019. This can be directly traced back to the medical need for ventilators because of the pandemic.

16. E-commerce, as expected, greatly proliferated

Source: OECD

Consumption habits changed considerably. During this year, much of the commerce happened online. Strict quarantines and fear of catching COVID prompted people to shop online after March. The graph shows how the number of people who search for the word “delivery” in google increased during the year.

17. Apps like Tik Tok entered (almost) every household, and made big money in the process

Source: Sensor Tower

Stuck at home with little to do, millions of people worldwide turned into TikTok, a once peculiar app (and insanely addictive, I am told) to create and share their lives with the world.

18. US Billionaires got even richer during this pandemic

Source: Forbes

Billionaires added trillions of dollars to their wealth this year, as the graph above shows.

19. It’s not all gloom and doom: fossil emissions declined by the largest amount ever recorded

Source: Global Carbon Project

20. So far, ~3 million vaccine doses have already been administered

Source: Our World in Data

The vaccination process against COVID has started, it is estimated that at least 3 million people have already been vaccinated. The United States has at least 1 million of these people after approving the Pfizer vaccine in December.



Kenza Bouhaj

Curious. Passionate about storytelling through data. Interested in Work, Skills and EdTech. Twitter: @KenzaBouhaj