economics

45 posts
Bubble charts, ratios and proportionality

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal about a challenger to the dominant weedkiller, Roundup, contains a nice selection of graphics. (Dicamba is the up-and-comer.) The change in usage of three brands of weedkillers is rendered as a small-multiples of choropleth maps. This graphic displays geographical and time changes simultaneously. The staircase chart shows weeds have become resistant to Roundup over time. This is considered a weakness in the...

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Taking small steps to bring out the message

Happy new year! Good luck and best wishes! *** We'll start 2020 with something lighter. On a recent flight, I saw a chart in The Economist that shows the proportion of operating income derived from overseas markets by major grocery chains - the headline said that some of these chains are withdrawing from international markets. The designer used one color for each grocery chain, and two shades within each color....

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All these charts lament the high prices charged by U.S. hospitals

A former student asked me about this chart from the New York Times that highlights much higher prices of hospital procedures in the U.S. relative to a comparison group of seven countries. The dot plot is clearly thought through. It is not a default chart that pops out of software. Based on its design, we surmise that the designer has the following intentions: The names of the medical procedures are...

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Revisiting global car sales

We looked at the following chart in the previous blog. The data concern the growth rates of car sales in different regions of the world over time. Here is a different visualization of the same data. Well, it's not quite the same data. I divided the global average growth rate by four to yield an approximation of the true global average. (The reason for this is explained in the other...

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This Excel chart looks standard but gets everything wrong

The following CNBC chart (link) shows the trend of global car sales by region (or so we think). This type of chart is quite common in finance/business circles, and has the fingerprint of Excel. After examining it, I nominate it for the Hall of Shame. *** The chart has three major components vying for our attention: (1) the stacked columns, (2) the yellow line, and (3) the big red dashed...

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This chart tells you how rich is rich – if you can read it

Via twitter, John B. sent me the following YouGov chart (link) that he finds difficult to read: The title is clear enough: the higher your income, the higher you set the bar. When one then moves from the title to the chart, one gets misdirected. The horizontal axis shows pound values, so the axis naturally maps to "the higher your income". But it doesn't. Those pound values are the "cutoff"...

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How to read this cost-benefit chart, and why it is so confusing

Long-time reader Antonio R. found today's chart hard to follow, and he isn't alone. It took two of us multiple emails and some Web searching before we think we "got it".   Antonio first encountered the chart in a book review (link) of Hal Harvey et. al, Designing Climate Solutions. It addresses the general topic of costs and benefits of various programs to abate CO2 emissions. The reviewer praised the...

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Does this chart tell the sordid tale of T1’s decline?

The Hustle has an interesting article on the demise of the T1 calculator, which is popular in business circles. The article uses this bar chart: From a Trifecta Checkup perspective, this is a Type DV chart. (See this guide to the Trifecta Checkup.) The chart addresses a nice question: is the T1 graphing calculator a victim of new technologies? The visual design is marred by the use of the calculator...

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Pulling the multi-national story out, step by step

Reader Aleksander B. found this Economist chart difficult to understand. Given the chart title, the reader is looking for a story about multinationals producing lower return on equity than local firms. The first item displayed indicates that multinationals out-performed local firms in the technology sector. The pie charts on the right column provide additional information about the share of each sector by the type of firms. Is there a correlation...

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Women workers taken for a loop or four

I was drawn to the following chart in Business Insider because of the calendar metaphor. (The accompanying article is here.) Sometimes, the calendar helps readers grasp concepts faster but I'm afraid the usage here slows us down. The underlying data consist of just four numbers: the wage gaps between race and gender in the U.S., considered simply from an aggregate median personal income perspective. The analyst adopts the median annual...

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