Wealth Inequality in the United States

Reality is never what you think. Over at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog I found a post about a YouTube video looking at wealth inequality in the United States. It looks at a study that compared what Americans thought the distribution of wealth in the United States is vs. what they think is an ideal distribution. And then the video compares that to the actual distribution.

The video is rather solid and does a fairly good job at explaining its point. And those unsure about wealth inequality and how it is different from and sometimes more meaningful than income inequality should read the post along with the video.

Wealth inequality
Wealth inequality

Credit for the video goes to a YouTube user named Politizane.

Analysing Amtrak

The Brookings Institution released a report investigating the ridership of Amtrak’s various routes in an attempt to identify ways of cutting costs. They also released an interactive piece along with the report that pairs a map with a simple table.

Highlighting a route in the table highlights the route in the map and links the two together for the user. Clicking a dot on the map shows the details for the metropolitan area ridership along with the total number of stations. Lastly, because the table is sortable, the user can identify for themselves the conclusion reached by the report. To become solvent, Amtrak should divest itself of its long-haul routes that run at significant losses and focus on the profitable routes that could subsidise the popular though still minor loss-making routes.

Amtrak routes with the Northeast Regional highlighted
Amtrak routes with the Northeast Regional highlighted

Credit for the piece goes to Alec Friedhoff.

The United States Compared to the Rest of the World

Have you ever wondered how big the United States is? MAPfrappe allows you to compare different geographies in Google Maps.

My employer has an office in Chicago and an office in Santiago, Chile. How big is Chile? North-to-south it is quite large. But east to west, the distance is like that of driving from Chicago to Detroit.

The United States compared to Chile
The United States compared to Chile

Via BuzzFeed.

The Reach of Nazi Concentration Camps

In a truly disturbing article, the New York Times detailed recent research by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to identify all the camps established by Germany in World War II, be them extermination camps, labour camps, ghettos, &c. At one point in the article, one of the principals behind the USHMM work stated he expected to find as many as 7,000 such camps across Europe. They have currently identified 42,500.

Two maps accompany the article. The first details the reach of ghettos for Eastern European Jews.

Map of ghettos across Eastern Europe
Map of ghettos across Eastern Europe

This second map plots the locations of the primary and secondary SS concentration camps.

Map of SS concentration camps
Map of SS concentration camps

Credit for the pieces go to the New York Times.

Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela

Hugo Chávez died yesterday. He was a controversial president to be certain. Some claim he was a dictator who tolerated no opposition. But he won four elections. Some claim he helped reduce poverty and ease the suffering of the poor. But he eviscerated the middle class and private enterprise. And he has left Venezuela in a precarious situation.

With only several hours’ time to research, design, and create this infographic, I can only offer a brief overview of the Venezuela that Chávez took under his stewardship in 1999 as compared to Venezuela today. But it’s a better starting place for the dialogue than nowhere.

Click for the full image.

Venezuela under Chávez
Venezuela under Chávez

Understanding Modern China

China is a big country, both geographically and demographically. It can also be rather opaque and difficult for an outsider to understand. So this recent work from Reuters is amazing because it makes China a bit more transparent while illustrating just how the political system structures power and personnel appointments.

The table of contents/introduction
The table of contents/introduction

Truthfully, there is more content there than ought to be consolidated into a single blog post here. Briefly, the project was some 18 months in development and hits upon three key areas: Social Power, Institutional Power, and Career Comparisons. Two other sections, China 101 and Featured Stories, offer additional material to help the user understand China’s past and what is going on in the present.

Social Power with Xi Jinping's network shown
Social Power with Xi Jinping's network shown

Social Power examines, primarily through the use of network diagrams, the social dynamics of the upper echelons of the Chinese leadership. Previous generations of Chinese political leaders saw power confined into the hands of a few, e.g. Mao Tse-tung, but in recent years the Chinese Communist Power has decentralised that power into several individuals. Many of those individuals have friendships, marriages, and business relationships that have advanced them and kept them in power. The interactivity allows the user to dive deep into these relationships. And should things becoming confusing, here and throughout the app, there are links to biographies, definitions, and guides to explain what is before the user.

Institutional Power
Institutional Power

Institutional Power roughly compares to a look at the American system of checks and balances. The responsibility of governing China falls to three “branches”: the Communist Party, the Chinese government, and the People’s Liberation Army (under which the navy and air force fall, e.g. the People’s Liberation Army Navy). This section of the app lists who belongs to each post or group and how that post or group falls into the broader structure of the Party, Government, or PLA.

Career Comparison with the guide open
Career Comparison with the guide open

The Career Comparison shows the different—but not really—tracks taken by the leaders of China. The user can compare individuals both present and past, along with potential future players, to see their route to power. China’s political system, because of its arguably undemocratic nature, is different from that of the United States. The path to power is longer and more established in China, as this section clearly shows.

As aforementioned the app was designed over 18 months and was optimised for the iPad 2+ and modern browsers (especially Chrome and Safari). All in all, a stellar piece of work. Design and development credits go to Fathom Interactive Design. The credits listed in the About section are as follows:

EDITOR+PROJECT LEADER: Irene Jay Liu
PRODUCTION HEADS: Yolanda Ma, Malik Yusuf
LEAD WRITER: Chris Ip
COPY EDITOR: John Newland
DESIGN+DEV: Fathom Information Design

Catholics and Cardinals

As the conclave in Rome is almost ready to begin, likely sometime next week, cardinals are gathering in Rome to discuss the affairs of the Catholic Church and then elect a new pope from within their ranks. Many outsiders talk about the time for a pope from outside of Europe, that the papacy has been an office for Europeans—namely Italians—for too long.

However, the preponderance of Catholics outside of Europe is, in the 2000-year history of the Church, a relatively recent phenomenon. Explosive growth in Latin America, Africa, and Asia combined with a decline in European Catholics means that it is only in the last few decades that Europeans have fallen from being nearly 2/3 of the global Catholic Church.

As my infographic attempts to explain, despite this demographic shift, the early Catholic Church chose popes from the distant corners of its territory before it contracted. That historical consolidation in Europe—Italy in particular—has led, however, to a disproportionate weight of cardinal electors, i.e. the cardinals who elect the pope, in favour of Italy and Europe. And as the cardinals typically choose from among their own, it is far more likely that the next pope will come from Europe if not Italy.

Click the image to see the full-sized graphic.

Catholic demographics and share of the cardinals
Catholic demographics and share of the cardinals

Hispanics in California

Places never stay the same. And a large part of that is due to demographic shifts. California recently released figures looking at its demographic breakdown through 2060. The New York Times charted and mapped the data through 2020. What the interactive graphic reveals is a stunning shift in just 40 years, less than two generations.

Linking the small multiples through the roll-over allows you to follow the exact change for your county of interest.

Tracking shifts in a county
Tracking shifts in a county

Rolling over the demographic group recolours the map to match. While the story is about Hispanic growth, I do wish I could select the group and examine its numbers across California’s counties.

Tracking a demographic group's overall shift
Tracking a demographic group's overall shift

Credit for the piece goes to Mike Bostock, Shan Carter, and Kevin Quealy.

Budget Sequestration and US Austerity

First things first, the verb is to sequester. The noun is sequestration. 1 March is not when the sequester begins. It is when the sequestration begins.

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, much is made of high government spending relative to revenue. However, this conversation still misses the point that government spending has fallen significantly. The New York Times charted that recent fall in spending in this graphic. This contraction is the largest drop in over 50 years. Along with the bars indicating recessions, I perhaps would have indicated major US military conflicts given the emphasis the introduction places on those events.

Government spending
Government spending

The piece also looks at government employment, which has been atypically lower than pre-recessionary figures. Taken in sum, the two sets of data point to an extant condition of austerity that shall only be worsened by…c’mon everyone…that’s right, the sequestration.

Credit for the piece goes to Alicia Parlapiano.