If this week’s news cycle cooperates, I am going to try and catch up on some things I have seen over the last several weeks that got bumped because of, well, Trump usually. Today we start with a piece on life expectancy from FiveThirtyEight.
The piece begins with a standard choropleth to identify, at county levels, pockets of higher mortality. But what I really like is this small multiples map of the United States. It shows the changes in life expectancy for all 50 states. And the use of colour quickly shows, for those states drastically different than the national average, are they above or below said average.
Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.
Today we look at income in American cities and in particular the middle class disappearance. The Guardian published the graphics, but they originate with Metrocosm, LTDB at Brown, and IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System. So what are we looking at? Well, the big one is a set of small multiples of cities and their income breakdowns as percentages of city census tracts. This screenshot is static, but the original is an animated .gif.
I have a few issues with the design of the graphic, the most important of which is the colour palette. If the goal is to focus on the decline of the middle class—and I admit that may be the point of the Guardian’s authors and not the original authors—why are the most visually striking colours at the top of the income distribution. Instead, you would want to draw attention to the middle of each chart, not the right. And if the idea was that the darker colours represent the higher income groups, well the positioning of each bar on the chart and the axis labelling does that already. After all, if anything, the story is that in a number of cities the middle class has shrunk while the lower income groups have grown. And you can barely see that with the lower income groups coloured yellow.
My other issues are more minor design things such as the city labelling. I kept reading the label as being below the bars, not above as it actually is.
And then I wonder if a different chart form would be more effective at showing the decline in the middle class. Perhaps a line chart plotting the beginning and end points for each cohort?
Then the piece gets into some three-dimensional maps that you can spin and rotate.
Yeah. Shall I count the ways? A more conventional choropleth would have served the purpose far more effectively. The dimensionality hides lower income tracts behind higher ones. The solution? Allow the user to rotate and spin the map? No, get rid of the dimensionality. It offers little to the understanding of the underlying data. Not to mention, are the areas of shadows shadows? Or are they another bin or cohort of income?
And then you have to read the piece to get a fuller understanding of my criticism.
But don’t worry, I can quote it.
Chicago was largely successful transitioning away from manufacturing to a service-based economy. This shift is evident in the bifurcated pattern present in 2015 – a heavy concentration of wealth in the business/financial district and marked decline in the surrounding area.
Those of you who read this blog from Chicago or who have lived in Chicago will pick up on it. The rest of you not so much. The concentration of wealth is not located in the business/financial district. Those dark red skyscrapers are not actual skyscrapers, they are census tracts located not in the financial district, but the areas of River North, Old Town, Gold Coast, &c. Thinking of the issue more logically, yes incomes are up in cities that are doing well. But how many of those very wealthy live on the same block as their office? Not many. Your higher income is going to be concentrated in residential or mixed-residential neighbourhoods near, but not in the business/financial district.
The data behind this work fascinates me. I just wish the final graphics had been designed with a bit more consideration for the data and the stories therein. And a little bit of proper understanding of the cities and their geography would help the text.
Credit for the piece goes to Metrocosm, LTDB at Brown University, and IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System.
There is no graphic today. Why? Because I want to illustrate a point that a lot of the work I and others in the information design world depends upon data. After all it puts the data in data visualisation. But yesterday the director of the US Census Bureau resigned because the Trump administration would not meet the Census Bureau’s funding request for conducting the 2020 Census.
And that matters. Yeah, it will be bittersweet to know that Philadelphia has probably slipped behind Phoenix, but the Census and the Census Bureau do so much more than that. They collect and publish data on income, health, housing, trade, and more. And that broad and deep set of data is invaluable.
These days we joke a lot—and I count myself in that we—about alternative facts. But all kidding aside, facts matter because they should underpin any debate we can have about policy. Do you want to have a debate about immigration, well before one goes out and makes wild statements and suppositions, government statistical agencies can provide cold, hard facts about actual levels of immigration. Once we know the scale and scope of the real problem we can begin to design real solutions.
If we want to elevate our society’s discourse and move away from divisive conversations and accusations, we need to establish a common baseline around which we can debate. And observable, provable data points provide just that. If we remove those data points, we will continue to just talk past each other and into our own echo chambers.
Consequently our first step should be properly funding the US Census.
Well not likely—it was going to be tough regardless.
Today’s piece is also from the Wall Street Journal and it was posted Saturday, the day before the election. It used a Sankey diagram to explore the support that Le Pen would have needed to draw from every candidate in the first round to get over the 50% mark in the second round.
If anything this chart is not the story. The story is that the final count I saw put Macron not on 60%, but on just over 66%.
Turns out she couldn’t.
Credit for the piece goes to Stacy Meichtry and Jovi Juan.
Yesterday we looked at the result of, but today I want to talk about covering of the French presidential election. It dovetails nicely with a recent story here in the states about Hawaii.
Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticised a court ruling because it came from a judge “on some island in the Pacific”. That island, of course, is Oahu. Oahu is one of several islands that comprise the state of Hawaii, including the eponymous island. But it does not matter that the state is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the fifty states of the union. And in terms of population, it isn’t even the smallest state. Should we not care about court decisions in Wyoming because so few people live there? No, because it is one of the fifty states.
Now you are likely asking, what does that have to do with the French presidential election? Well, it has to do with choropleth maps of French results. Well, most likely you were not looking at a map of the French Republic. Take this map from the New York Times.
It looks like France, but it’s only a part of France. Instead, we have France 24 presenting the map correctly. The thing missing? All those little geographies around the border.
You may recall that France at one point had an empire. At home, France was organised into state-like entities called departments. By contrast, the United Kingdom had an empire with its home territories organised into counties. Then in the 20th century, both empires began to dissolve. In the UK that meant independence for most places, but others transitioned from colonies to crown dependencies, e.g. Gibraltar and until 1997 Hong Kong. But technically, they are not part of the United Kingdom. (Don’t get me started on the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey.)
In France, there were some conflicts—here’s looking at you French Indochina/Vietnam—and some independence. But for those that did gain independence, the territories took a different track from the crown dependences in the UK. France integrated them into the French Republic and made them full-on departments. (It is a little bit more complicated than that, but for now we’ll keep it simple.) So now, if you visit Canada and take a day trip to St. Pierre and Miquelon, you are stepping on France. This is also different from Puerto Rico and the United States, where Puerto Rico is not fully part of the United States.
And so what does this mean for electoral purposes? Well, as you have probably figured out, this all means that French elections are geographically broader than those of the UK or the US. Gibraltar does not vote for Parliament and so you will not see it on the June election maps. In 2016, notice how you did not see Puerto Rico in the US presidential election maps. But because of how France integrated its former colonies as departments, Cayenne, French Guiana gets as much of a say on the French president as does Paris.
So remember, next time you look at a map of France on Europe, it’s like looking at a map of the United States without Alaska and Hawaii. Because France too exists on an island in the Pacific. It’s called New Caledonia.
Wow do we have a lot to talk about this week. Probably bleeding into next week to be honest. But, last night was the special election for the Georgia 6th.
For those of you not following politics, the congressman representing it was Tom Price; he is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Consequently, Georgia needed to elect a fill-in for the Atlanta-suburbs district. That election was between 18 candidates last night. The race could have been won outright, but it would have required a vote total over 50%.
That did not happen—and realistically with 18 people running was not likely. But, Democrats hoped they could get their candidate in at 50+%.
This screenshot is from a nice piece by the New York Times. As you all know by now, I am not a huge fan of choropleth maps. They distort geographic area and population. But, I like the arrangement of these small multiples. It does a nice job of comparing the results for the five major candidates. I particularly like the addition of the 2016 presidential election result. With the cratering poll approvals of Donald Trump, could some of the paler red precincts flip in June?
The above screenshot comes from BuzzFeed, whose coverage I followed via live streaming last night. They used a cartogrammic approach, assuming that cartogrammic is actually a word. The colours could use a bit more sophistication—the best example being the Democratic–Republican margin map where the blues are darker than the reds and have a hopefully unintended greater visual weight.
Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting to post today. But that’s okay, because it’s big news all the same and allows me to get my hands dirty. Yesterday the Washington Post broke news that the United Arab Emirates, specifically Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the UAE’s national security advisor, arranged a meeting between an official reportedly close to Vladimir Putin and Eric Prince.
Who is Eric Prince? Besty DeVos’ brother for starters. But more importantly for the story, a major donor and supporter for and of the Trump campaign. He also has ties to Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist for the President. Most importantly, the article alleges, potentially damningly, that Zayed would not have arranged the meeting without “the nod” from both Trump and Putin.
What was discussed? Allegedly the strategic aim of separating Russia from Iran. Yeah, that’s probably a good thing. But given things like the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, the Bushehr nuclear generating station, and the ongoing support of the Iran-Assad-Hezbollah faction in Syria, it is highly unlikely that Putin would be very willing to suddenly drop his support for Iran.
Why is this on my blog today? Well, I have been increasingly curious about all the stories about how various people and organisations are linking Trump and Putin. To be fair, a link is not inherently, necessarily nefarious let alone illegal. But, given the intelligence collected that Russia was attempting to influence the election in Trump’s favour, and given his electoral college win, and given the known connections, it is important that we look at the breadth and depth of the unknown connections.
And that is what this graphic will be. For now it will be a static graphic that I update whenever news breaks—and when I have time to go cite previous news articles—about unveiled connections. Ideally in the future I can turn this into a more dynamic and interactive piece.
Credit for the news goes to the Washington Post. Graphic is mine.
Quite a few things to look at this week. But I want to start with something that caught my attention last Friday. The Economist produced this graphic about the top-50 cities by the always pleasant metric of homicide. I bring it up because of the oft mentioned capital of carnage here in America: Chicago. (To which I’m briefly returning late this week.)
Note which city is not on that list: Chicago.
Some countries, sadly El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, are among those expected on that list. But the United States is the only rich, industrialised nation present. Unfortunately this is not a list on which we should aspire to be.
The graphic itself does a few nice things. In particular, I like the inclusion of the small multiple national rate to the left of the cities. Because, obviously, high murder rates are not great in El Salvador, but on the plus side, they are down of late. And the same small multiples do go a long way to show that, in general, despite what the administration says, homicide rates in the United States are quite low by these standards.
My quibble with the graphic? Breaking out cities by country. Yeah, it does make a lot of sense. But look at that country listed two spots below the United States: Puerto Rico. I am not here going to get into the whole Puerto Rican statehood vs. sovereignty argument, but suffice it to say that it is a part of the United States.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist’s graphics department.
I could have covered the pieces on Gorsuch or the budget—and we will get to those—but I wanted to cover some data released by the World Meteorological Organisation that puts 2016 as the warmest year on record.
But that’s cool, climate change is a hoax.
The graphic comes from a BBC article covering the news, and is a reuse of work from the National Oceanian and Atmospheric Administration. It portrays how much this past January deviated from long-term averages. Because, and I am probably preaching to the choir, remember that day-to-day highs, lows, and precipitation are weather. Longer term trends, patterns, and averages are evidence of climate.
Just so happens that today is also supposed to be the warmest day of the week here in Philadelphia.
It’s a tulip joke, get it? Because the Netherlands.
The point of today’s piece is that Geert Wilders, the anti-EU, anti-Muslim, populist leader of the Dutch Freedom Party did not upset Prime Minister Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), a centre-right party. Wilders had threatened to upset the status quo in the Netherlands earlier in the electoral season, but had come under pressure in recent weeks and days. He did, however, manage to come in second. Although its radical platform makes it highly unlikely to enter into any coalition government.
And speaking of coalition government, that is the Dutch way. With over a dozen parties competing for 150 seats, Rutte’s VVD looks to have won 33 seats—final results are expected in a few days’ time. Consequently, he will need the support of other parties to govern. And that gets us to today’s piece from the Guardian, a look at a few potential coalition scenarios. (As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of coalition governments.)
As you know I’m not a huge fan of stacked bar charts, but in this case the form works well. After all the point in this graphic is not to compare the number of seats held by each party—if it were, this fails—but to show the order needed to cross the 75 seat line. The table of who’s who above also is a great help to those not so familiar with Dutch politics who are trying to ascertain which coalition partnerships are more likely. After all, it’s highly unlikely a rightwing and leftwing party would come together to govern.
Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian’s graphics department.