Charts and Infographics

Charts and infographics illustrating key statistics

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How Does the Government Spend Your Tax Dollars?

Includes tax visualizations
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Getty Images

Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote: “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Well, the deadline for the latter inevitability (and hopefully not the former) is just around the corner.

For many Americans, mid-April means last minute scrambling and groaning, a last ditch effort to get taxes filed by the April 15 deadline.

So what happens to all that hard-earned cash of yours?

The federal budget – on which the government operates – consists mainly of revenue from income taxes and payroll taxes. In an effort to demystify what the government actually does with that cash, Google and Eyebeam last year put out a call to graphic designers and developers to help visualize how our federal income tax dollars are spent. The Data Viz Challenge, as it was called, drew some very cool entries, including the following interactives (click on each to explore the multimedia versions).

 

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Where Did All My Tax Dollars Go?
Designed by Anil Kandangath, this won first place in the contest. It allows users to enter their income and view a clear breakdown of what services that money went towards.

 

 

Every Day Is Tax Dayclock
Designed by Fred Chasen, this project took second place in the contest. It allows viewers to explore how many hours they actually spend working directly for the government over the course of a year, and what programs that cash funds.

 

 

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Federal Income Tax Receipt
Although not actually an entry in the contest, this is a good straightforward visualization produced by the National Priorities Project that spits out a simple itemized receipt of your tax breakdown based on income.

10 Years After the Invasion: Visualizing Key Details on the War in Iraq

Includes multimedia visualizations and video

On March 20, 2003 U.S. forces invaded Iraq under the false pretense that its government was harboring weapons of mass destruction. Intended to be a brief mission to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and find the weapons, the Defense Department estimated the effort would cost about $60 billion.  Today, 10 years later, Iraq is still reeling from a prolonged conflict that, according to a recent study, has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion (and growing) and brought a death toll of nearly 190,000 civilians, soldiers, journalists and aid workers.

While the U.S. occupation did lead to the overthrow of Hussein and the semblance of a fragile democracy, it also launched the country into a state of civil war, fueled by an ongoing period of political instability and intense sectarian violence. The U.S. occupation officially ended in December of 2011, but today the bloodshed continues on a nearly daily basis as large swaths of Iraq remain mired in conflict.

This collection of visualizations illustrates some of the war’s cold hard facts, the big milestones, and the many layers of miscalculation and deception. Continue reading

A New Pope For A New Catholic World

Includes interactive map, infographics, and video
Photo by: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

Photo by: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

In our hyper-connected world, where success is often measured by the number of “followers” and “friends” we have, becoming pope is pretty much the holy grail.

I mean, think about it: you become pope, and just like that, you’ve got 1.2 billion followers. Take that Twitter!

That’s about how many Roman Catholics there are in the world today, according to Vatican figures. That’s more than 1 in 7 people on the planet who subscribe to the belief that the pope is one of the closest mortals to God. And it makes the papacy an incredibly powerful global force.

Among those ranks, a steadily growing majority live in the global south, more than 40 percent of whom hail from Latin America. Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world, and three other Latin American countries are in the top 10, according to the the World Christian Database (as reported by the BBC). Roughly three-quarters of Latin America’s entire population — about 483 million — is now Catholic.

Click through the map below – produced by The Globe and Mail, using 2010 data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life – to find the size of each country’s Catholic population as a percentage of its overall population.

Continue reading

U.S. Gun Homicides: Visualizing the Numbers

Includes multimedia visualizations
Source: Factcheck.org

Source: Factcheck.org

Compared to other high-income nations in the world, America isn’t unusually violent; we’re just unusually lethal.

That’s according to David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He argues there is a direct connection between the U.S. being leaps and bounds ahead of any other industrialized country in terms of overall gun death rates and gun homicides — and the fact that we have the highest gun-ownership rates in the world

“We are a nation which does not have more crime or more violence,” Hemenway said during a forum on gun violence held shortly after the Newtown shooting. “We are an average nation in terms of assault, robbery, and (non-firearms) homicides.” What distinguishes the U.S., he notes, is our rate of gun violence: “The United States has a very horrific gun problem … 85 people a day dying from guns from all sorts of injury … Compared to the other developed countries, we are just doing terribly.” Continue reading

The Sequester Explained in Plain English

Includes video and charts

Well, it’s official:

The U.S. has entered the dreaded sequester, a very costly consequence of the federal government failing to reach a budget deal by their self-imposed deadline (March 1). This is one for the history books -  the largest, automatic across the board spending cuts in American history.

But if this latest government crisis hasn’t been keeping you up at night, you’re certainly not alone. A recent study found that the vast majority of Americans have paid little to no attention as the sequester drew near; many dismissed it as a poorly made sequel to last year’s more compelling fiscal cliff thriller (along the lines of the The Hangover Part II, if you will).

But despite the lack of popular interest, the sequester is actually a pretty big deal – and real pain will be felt. While it won’t lead to across the board tax hikes – as the fiscal cliff threatened to do – it will result in sweeping cuts to government services that millions of Americans rely on.

In the days leading up to the deadline, Obama referred to the sequester as “a meat cleaver approach” to reducing the deficit, making dire warnings about the damage it would inflict on the economy and individual states.

“Across the board spending cuts mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans won’t get services they rely on from the government,” he said.

Continue reading

Making Sense of Debt, Deficits and Other Dull Mysteries of the Universe

There’s been a lot of news recently about the government’s ongoing battle over the deficit and the debt ceiling.

But what does it all really mean?

If you happened to be snoozing through most of your 12th grade economics class, here’s a quick refresher:

The deficit is the gap between what the government spends and what it actually makes in revenue (through taxes).

So, basically, to put it into first-grade math terms: (D)eficit  = (S)pending – (R)evenue 
Continue reading

Is It Time To Raise The Federal Minimum Wage?

Includes interactive maps, video, audio
Source: NPR

Source: NPR

 

Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.

“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”

Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective,  the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 –  and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)

“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading

What Policies Do Americans Care Most About?

Includes interactive chart
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Source: Pew Research (click to explore the interactive)

President Barack Obama tonight delivers the first State of the Union address of his second term. The speech is expected to include an ambitious list of policy goals and priorities – from boosting the economy and reforming the nation’s immigration system to advocating for new policies on gun control and climate change.

The speech is widely considered to be among the most significant of Obama’s remaining political career. That’s because second term presidents generally only have a limited window of time – as little as year – to accomplish their big-ticket goals before the lame duck syndrome sets in. Continue reading

The United States of Firearms: America’s Love of the Gun

Includes data visualizations and video

Regardless of where you stand on gun control, the fact remains that America is one gun-toting country. There are 89 guns for every 100 civilians, according to the 2011 Small Arms Survey. That amounts to roughly 270 million guns owned nationwide, far and away the highest gun ownership rate in the world. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is home to anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of all civilian-owned guns on earth.

Created by Simon Rogers at the Guardian (click to explore interactively)

 

And while America certainly does not have the highest firearms-related homicide rate in the world (it ranks 28th), our rate is more than four times that of any other industrialized country (including all of Europe, Japan, Australia, Turkey and India): in 2011,  there were well over 9,000 gun-related homicides (nearly 70 percent of all homicides committed), or roughly three per 100,000 population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. That’s about 20 times the average rate of all other developed nations, according to the Washington Post.

Max Fisher_The Washington Post (source: UNODC; using 2010 data)

In contrast, Great Britain has a gun ownership rate of about 6 guns for every 100 civilians. Last year it had 41 gun-related homicides, or .07 per 100,000 population. Meanwhile, Finland, where there are 45 guns per 100 civilians, had only 24 gun homicides in 2011, a rate of .45 per 100,000 population.

 

Simon Rogers_The Guardian

The infographic below, produced by Good Magazine and Column Five, further illustrates America’s deep and exceptional love affair with the gun.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. rate of gun ownership was previously stated incorrectly: there are 89 guns for every 100 civilians (NOT: 89 out of 100 civilians own a gun).