U.S. vs. Eurozone GDP

February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

USGDP

Economists closely watch the quarterly change in gross domestic product as a sign of a country’s economic well-being. A contraction (aka negative economic growth) in GDP for two consecutive quarters is the technical indicator of a recession.

Here’s the catch: the U.S. and Eurozone calculate the quarterly change differently. If you want to chart the figures together one set needs to be recalculated.

The details:

The U.S. expresses its GDP figures as a quarterly change at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, or what the quarterly rate would be if it continued for four quarters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis does this to make it easier to compare a quarter’s rate to rates in previous years. The Wall Street Journal chart above is a good example.

The Eurozone expresses GDP as a straight change from the previous quarter, not at an annual rate. See the chart below from the National Post.

If you want to compare Eurozone GDP to U.S. GDP your best bet is to recalculate the Eurozone GDP at an annual rate. I’m not going to step you through it, since the BEA already does an excellent job of it at this link:  http://www.bea.gov/faq/index.cfm?faq_id=122. You will need to get the quarterly GDP values (not the percentage changes) to make this calculation.

eurogdp

Investing goals

December 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

invest

Editors and designers of quarterly investor newsletters face the daunting challenge of putting a fresh take on familiar messages. This chart from T Rowe Price offers a new way of looking at asset allocation over time. It tackles the idea with a free-form visualization. Note how the chart hinges on a zero base for when you plan to spend your money and fans out to the left and right to depict years before and after the goal. The chart depicts asset allocations but lets the key handle the sub-asset categories. It’s easy to read and it tells you a lot.

Nuclear weapon inventories

September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

nukes
For charts showing nuclear-weapon inventories, such as the example above from AFP, chartists typically use the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as their go-to source.
http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/nuclear-forces

For historical data, you can also try the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Nuclear Notebook.
http://thebulletin.org/search/feature-type/nuclear-notebook

Also, NRDC’s archive of nuclear data.
http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datainx.asp

While none of these sources are neutral on nuclear weapons, no one questions the reliability of their data.

Union membership

January 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

union

You can find annual union membership figures on the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpslutabs.htm.

But the BLS stats go back just a dozen years. If you want to see how far union membership has declined over several decades, try the Unionstats database, which is maintained by scholars at Georgia State University and Trinity University. http://www.unionstats.com

This will take you back to 1973, broken down by various sectors. The database has some categories that I hope to chart in the future, such as union membership by very granular occupation categories, as well as state membership density from 1964 to date.

State gun laws

January 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

guns in america

The federal government enforces a few basic gun laws: you generally can’t have a machine gun or a silencer; you can’t buy a gun if you are crazy, you are a gun addict or have been convicted of a major crime; and you have to submit to a background check before you plunk down your money on a shiny Smith & Wesson. Beyond that, it’s up to the states to say whether you can conceal a gun, own super-size magazines or buy a bunch of rifles at once.

You face a mighty challenge sorting out these state laws for your readers with an infographic. I’ve found that the best way is to select your topic first—say, background checks at gun shows—and then compile a list of which states regulate it and to what degree. I used to get this info from The Brady Campaign, but then I discovered that they get their material from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Law Center keeps very good, up-to-date lists of state gun laws. You can find them here: http://smartgunlaws.org/search-gun-law-by-gun-policy/

Racing sheets

December 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

racing sheet exampleWhen I work with reporters on graphics that need lots of text blocks, I tell them to write the copy like a racing sheet: short, punchy, concise and almost exactly the same length from item to item. But not everybody goes to the race track, so here are two examples of racing sheets. Click on them to make them bigger.

race2sm

 

Shark attacks

October 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

shark attacks

Shark attacks loom large in our imaginations even though the chance of being killed by a shark is infinitesimally small. Our obsession with shark statistics provides fodder for compelling charts, such as the classic infographic by the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinal shown above or the more sparse, image-driven chart below.

Visual journalists most frequently go to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural history for shark-attack data. The site posts an annual report that includes trends by location and circumstance.
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/isaf/graphs.htm
Here are some examples of terrifying details charted in the report.


Another source, the similarly named Shark Attack File, provides less analysis but greater detail on each shark-attack report.
http://sharkattackfile.info
Here’s an example from the National Post of how you can use these stats. The Post’s team created an icon for each recorded attack over the past 100 years.

http://www.nationalpost.com/m/wp/news/blog.html?b=news.nationalpost.com/2012/03/27/graphic-a-hundred-years-of-shark-attacks