Student Debt Levels are Soaring

Earlier this month the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published a report on household debt. Among the findings was the story that student debt is rising to problematic levels as it may act as a brake on economic recovery. In short, without an economy creating jobs for the young (recent university graduates) it becomes increasingly difficult for the young to pay pack the loans for the sharply rising costs of university tuition.

The report made this argument by use of interactive choropleth maps and charts. The one below looks at

Which consumers have how much debt
Which consumers have how much debt

But another chart that talks about the rising levels of student loan debt misses the mark. Here we see some rather flat lines. Clearly student loans are growing, but without a common baseline, the variations in the other types of debt muddle that message.

The NY Fed's presentation of non-housing debt
The NY Fed's presentation of non-housing debt

I took the liberty of using the data provided by the New York Fed and charting the lines all separately. Here you can clearly see just how in less than ten years, student loans have risen from $200 billion to $1,000 billion. This as credit card debt is falling along with other forms of debt (non-automotive).

My take on non-housing debt
My take on non-housing debt

The New York Fed did some great work, but with just one tweak to their visualisation forms, their story is made much more powerful and much more clear.

Credit for the original work goes to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

California Budget 2013–14

Yesterday I looked at the aboriginal Canadian identity infographic and wondered if bubbles in a bubble suffice for understanding size and relationship. Today we look at an interactive graphic from the Los Angeles Times where I do not think the bubbles suffice.

California Budget 2013–4
California Budget 2013–4

In this graphic, I cannot say the bubbles work. Besides the usual difficulty in comparing the sizes of bubbles, too many of the bubbles are spaced too far apart. These white gaps make it even more difficult to compare the bubbles. Furthermore, as you will see in a moment, it is difficult to see which programmes receive more than others because there is no ranking order to the bubbles.

Below is a quick data sketch of the state funds only data for 2013 and 2012.

California Budget 2013–14
California Budget 2013–14

While I did not spend a lot of time on it, you can clearly see how simply switching to a bar chart allows the user to see the rank of programmes by state funding. It is not a stretch to add some kind of toggle function as in the original. One of the tricky parts is the percent growth. You will note above that my screenshot highlights high speed rail; the growth was over 3000%. That is far too much to include in my graphic, so I compared the actuals instead. That is one of the tradeoffs, but in my mind it is an acceptable one.

Credit for the original goes to Paige St. John and Armand Emamdjomeh.

On Holiday in Ganister

Well, actually, your author is driving back from Ganister today. Unfortunately, while on holiday I was not working (nor was I planning to.) So while I could of run silent today, I wanted to share with all of you again a project I created last year about my return drive from Ganister. For all of who familiar with the piece, I apologise for my re-posting of previous work. For those of you unfamiliar with the work or with Ganister and its distance/remoteness, enjoy. (It’s full-size, so no click-for-higher-resolution.)

My return trip from Ganister from 2012
My return trip from Ganister from 2012

Replacing Nomar Garciaparra

I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox and have been since 1999. The first (and sadly only) Red Sox game I saw at Fenway was the day after Nomar Garciaparra hit three home runs in one game. Two of them were grand slams. For you non-baseball folks (NBF) reading this, that is majorly impressive. Anyway, the Red Sox traded him in 2004 to acquire some pieces they needed to make a run for the World Series title that had eluded them for 80+ years (also significant for NBF). The result? My favourite player traded to the Cubs, but my favourite team won the World Series.

But now it’s Opening Day, the kickoff for the baseball season—that reference is for you American football fans. (To be fair, there was a game last night between two Texas teams, but today’s the de facto start.) Since that 2004 trade, however, the Red Sox have not had a consistent, long-term shortstop of the same offensive calibre of Nomar. How bad has this revolving door been? My infographic today looks at the shortstop replacements for Nomar Garciaparra.

Click to go to the full graphic
Click to go to the full graphic

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

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

Historical Chicago Snowfall

Snow should fall upon Chicago this afternoon and it may measure up to a few inches in depth. But much of this winter has been below average. And that is much the same from last year when snowfall did not even reach 20 inches.

I went through NOAA data to look at the last decade of monthly snowfall to see just how little snow has fallen this winter. (Not a lot.) And then I looked at the entirety of the NOAA records to see where 2011/2 fit in the span of winters. (One of the least snowy.) This graphic is the result.

Historical Chicago Snowfall
Historical Chicago Snowfall

Presidential Popularity Redux

This time last year I used some data published by Public Policy Polling upon presidential popularity (alliterative, right?) to create a graphic looking at said popularity. So here it is again for Presidents Day. Next time I’ll try to remember the holiday is coming a bit further in advance and work on something newer.

Presidential popularity
Presidential popularity

A minor point, someone asked why the bar runs past 100 for some presidents yet stops before 100 for others. The data was rounded and some things didn’t add to 100. I saw no need to manipulate the numbers for aesthetic purposes.

Whence the Popes Came

For the first time in centuries, a sitting pope is to resign. Typically most popes have served until their death. The question for many will now be who will be the next pope. Will it be a cardinal from Latin America? From Africa?

I looked at the origins of the all the popes since Peter. (Although the earliest few centuries are sketchy at best with not a whole lot of data.) As it turns out, there have already been probably three popes from Africa. Granted, they all lived during the Roman Empire, but still…that has to count for something…right?…No?…okay. Fine. Well in that case, you have plenty of Italians, in particular Romans to serve. (At least historically speaking.)

Whence the Popes Came
Whence the Popes Came

French Special Forces Seize Kidal

On Tuesday French special forces captured the airport in Kidal, Mali. (Although the use of the term airport is a bit generous.) In an unanticipated move—the Malian army was not informed before the operation commenced—the French retook the last major urban centre that had been under Islamist control. This may well end the first phase of the war in Mali, i.e. the recapture of major cities and towns taken by the Islamists since last year. The next phase will be training the Malian army and securing the towns and cities taken by the French. But there is little indication that the latter task will be undertaken by the French army.

As usual, click the image below for the full-sized version.

The capture of Kidal by airmobile French forces
The capture of Kidal by airmobile French forces