Graduate Degrees

Many of us know the debt that comes along with undergraduate degrees. Some of you may still be paying yours down. But what about graduate degrees? A recent article from the Wall Street Journal examined the discrepancies between debt incurred in 2015–16 and the income earned two years later.

The designers used dot plots for their comparisons, which narratively reveal themselves through a scrolling story. The author focuses on the differences between the University of Southern California and California State University, Long Beach. This screenshot captures the differences between the two in both debt and income.

Pretty divergent outcomes…

Some simple colour choices guide the reader through the article and their consistent use makes it easy for the reader to visually compare the schools.

From a content standpoint, these two series, income and debt, can be combined to create an income to debt ratio. Simply put, does the degree pay for itself?

What’s really nice from a personal standpoint is that the end of the article features an exploratory tool that allows the user to search the data set for schools of interest. More than just that, they don’t limit that tool to just graduate degrees. You can search for undergraduate degrees.

Below the dot plot you also have a table that provides the exact data points, instead of cluttering up the visual design with that level of information. And when you search for a specific school through the filtering mechanism, you can see that school highlighted in the dot plot and brought to the top of the table.

Fortunately my alma mater is included in the data set.


Unfortunately you can see that the data suggests that graduates with design and applied arts degrees earn less (as a median) than they spend to obtain the degree. That’s not ideal.

Overall this was a really nice, solid piece. And probably speaks to the discussions we need to have more broadly about post-secondary education in the United States. But that’s for another post.

Credit for the piece goes to James Benedict, Andrea Fuller, and Lindsay Huth.

Maps and Legends

First, great song by R.E.M.

Second, you may recall a post last week where I shared some work by FiveThirtyEight about life expectancy. In particular I liked the set of small multiples. However, the New York Times just took what I liked and upped it a slight notch.

Maybe he's caught in the legend…
Maybe he’s caught in the legend…

Every small multiple set needs a legend to explain just what the user is looking at. What the Times did is integrate that legend into the Alaska multiple. And it can do that because of Alaska’s position in the upper-left, or northwest, portion of the “map” as a non-contiguous part of the United States.


Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

New New Orleans

Nine years after the impact of Hurricane Katrina upon the city of New Orleans, the touristy French Quarter has returned according to an article in the National Journal. However, the new New Orleans beyond the French Quarter is different from what once was. In short, the new city is whiter and more Hispanic.

And while this graphic that accompanies the piece does a fair job of showing the title, a snapshot, I wish the focus would have been on more of a comparison between pre and post, old and new.

A quick look at New Orleans
A quick look at New Orleans

I would not necessarily chosen the same components to tell the story. But, I really want to see more direct comparisons of even just the 2000 census and data to that of 2010.

Credit for the piece goes to the National Journal’s graphics department.

University Graduation

Today’s piece from the Washington Post examines the graduation rates of 100 people who enrolled at university in 2002. The data set tracked them over the following six years.

Who dropped out vs who finished?
Who dropped out vs who finished?

Credit for the piece goes to Darla Cameron.

Growth of the Common Core Standard

Today’s piece is a timeline-driven piece from the Washington Post. It looks at the success the Gates Foundation has had in pushing its Common Core standards as an educational standard across the country.

Common Core's Growth
Common Core’s Growth

Credit for the piece goes to Darla Cameron, Ted Mellnik, and Cristina Rivero.

Wealth and Education

Today’s post looks at education across a set of 65 countries from a standardised test backed by the OECD, basically a group of wealthy countries. The test results found that some poor countries have surprisingly good education systems whereas some of the world’s wealthiest countries—here’s looking at you, United States—perform poorly. The Huffington Post created this graphic to plot the data.

Education scores
Education scores

I really enjoy this piece. It plots each income decile’s results, blocks the countries into OECD members versus their partners, and then each country’s average socioeconomic status is shown as being above or below the OECD average. This is the type of piece I see as a static image that I would want to see made interactively—though I fully understand how difficult and time-consuming that can be—so that I could begin to filter and re-arrange the data. Could discoveries be made by organising countries by geographic regions? Could one just look at the top or bottom deciles?

Credit for the piece goes to Jan Diehm.

The Young and the Educated

Today’s piece comes from the National Journal. It is an interactive bubble chart that compares the educated class of cities in 1980 to those in 2010 (educated meaning the share of population with at least a bachelor’s degree).

College graduate cities
College graduate cities

Not a whole lot to say about this one, in a good way. A nice summation at the top with clearly presented data below while annotations on the plot call out particular objects in the series worth noting. And then for those who want to find themselves, a drop down filter at the top allows users to select a particular city.

Credit for the piece goes to Brian McGill and Nancy Cook.

The Gap in University Admissions

The New York Times has recently done good work with interactive infographics that weave a narrative through their chosen form of data visualisation. I covered one such work back in February that looked at girls in science. Today, a similarly structured piece looks at university admissions and graduation rates for ethnic minorities.

Admissions Gap at Universities
Admissions Gap at Universities

Navigation in the top-right guides the user through the story with key schools highlighted. Of course at any time the user can dive into the data and find specific schools that interest them. Overall the piece is less about data exploration, however, and instead merely uses the wealth of data to paint a context for the broader narrative.

Credit for the piece goes to Josh Keller.

Girls in Science…Just Not in the United States

This piece from the New York Times is really well done. With simple colours to differentiate three groups, values are charted on a scatter plot to show the distribution of results for an OECD science test in 65 countries. The results clearly show regional differences in the performance of girls in the sciences depending upon the region.

The overall picture
The overall picture

But to make the story clearer for those who may not take the time to really delve into the data, five simple buttons on the upper right take the user through the story by annotating the different highlighted views shown in each step.

Southern and Eastern Europe and the Middle East are Highlighted
Southern and Eastern Europe and the Middle East are Highlighted

Credit for the piece goes to Hannah Fairfield and Alan McLean.

The Education Gap

Last week, the New York Times looked at the growing education gap amongst this country’s largest metropolitan areas. The infographic, click the image below to go to the full version, is perhaps a bit more layered, nuanced, and complex than it looks at first. In about forty years, the number of adults with college degrees has doubled, good, but so too has the spread of those numbers across the set of cities, bad. And then to look at any geographic spread, the two datasets are mapped geospatially. By my eye, the Northeast and Pacific Northwest seem to be doing fairly well. Not so much around the rest of the country.

The education gap
The education gap

Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park.