Economics

The current events of commerce

RECENT POSTS

What Do Your Taxes Actually Pay For?

Includes visualizations

2100_biz_taxforms_0713When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he left out a third inevitability: fierce disagreements over tax rates and spending.

As long as our government spends a lot more than it takes in, taxation will continue to be a cause of strife between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes and smaller government; the latter for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased revenue for public services. It’s like a boring version of the NeverEnding Story (without cool flying animals). Continue reading

How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

Explaining the Latest Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Spending Limits

SCOTUS DecisionThe Supreme Court on Wednesday removed a 40-year-old cap on the total amount of cash  individuals can contribute to political candidates and party committees. The latest in a string of rulings chipping away at longstanding campaign finance limits, the court’s 5-to-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission is expected to let new flood of money pour into America’s already cash-saturated political process.

What the decision actually does

It removes the cap on the combined amount of cash that any one person can directly give to candidates running for federal office, or to political party committees. Continue reading

Time for A Raise? What You Need to Know About the Minimum Wage

Includes interactive explainer


Do America’s lowest wage earners deserve a raise?

As Congress again delves into the hotly contested perennial debate over raising the federal minimum wage, a growing number of states and cities throughout the country are forging their own paths on the issue, DoNowWagesImage resulting in an uneven national patchwork of wage laws. We dig into the debate over dollars and cents in this interactive explainer, produced by Newsbound. Scroll through the whole presentation at once, or choose specific chapters by selecting the table of contents button on the bottom left of the screen. Sources for each slide are also included at the bottom.

Common Core Connections

Relevant ELA and Social Studies CCSS Anchor Standards

• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7: Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Social Studies Integration

Integrate this topic into the following high school social studies units:

US History
(based on:The American Vision, CA Edition (McGraw Hill/Glencoe, 2006)
• Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-1939
• The New Frontier and the Great Society, 1961-1968
• The Politics of Protest, 1960-1980
• Politics and Economics, 1971-1980
• Resurgence of Conservatism, 1980-1992
US Government
(based on: American Government, Prentice Hall, 2006, CA Edition)
• Unit 2 – Political Behavior: Government by the People
• Unit 3 – The Legislative Branch
• Unit 4 – The Executive Branch
• Unit 6 – Comparative Political and Economic Systems
Economics
(based on: Econ Alive! TCI, 2010)
• Unit 4 – Economics of the Public Sector
• Unit 5 – Measuring and Managing the Economy

Map: If California Split into Six States, This is What It’d Look Like

Includes interactive map

Click on different points of the map below to see which counties would be part of each one of California’s six new states, as outlined in a new proposed ballot initiative. Per capita income and population figures are listed for each proposed “state,” based on analysis by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. [Read the story under the map for more context].

legend

California’s Secretary of State this week gave a wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist the green light to start collecting petition signatures for a proposed ballot initiative to split California into separate jurisdictions.

Tim Draper, who has made a fortune investing in web start-ups like Skype, argues that the Golden State is too massive to effectively govern as a single body, and wants to divide it into six independent smaller states. Continue reading

What’s the Link Between Economics and Crime in America’s Most Violent Cities?

Includes interactive chart
detroit

One of Detroit’s many abandoned factories (Wikipedia)

A city’s high violent crime rate can result from any number of societal factors, and attempts at pinpointing can quickly turn into a tricky — if not specious — exercise.

While it’s easy enough to find correlations, proving causation becomes a far greater challenge: just because two variables occur simultaneously does not mean one was the cause of the other. For instance, even though most violent cities also have higher-than-average unemployment rates, not all all cities with high unemployment rates are violent. And while some perennially high-crime cities clearly suffer from a shortage of police officers, many relatively safe cities also have a low rate of officers per population.

Continue reading

America, the Land of Opportunity? Not for Most Poor Kids, One Study Finds

Includes cartoon infographic


Contrary to the mantra commonly touted by politicians on the campaign trail, few Americans born into poverty ever get to experience the iconic rise from “rags to riches.”

A new study by a team of UC Berkeley and Harvard economists examined upward income mobility throughout the nation, finding that less than 8 percent of people born at the bottom 20 percent of the income ladder ever climb to the top 20 percent as adults. The study, though, also found that geographic location can significantly impact those odds. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. Continue reading

The Math of Credit Card Debt, Explained

Includes animated video

Beware the lure of that plastic in your wallet!

According to the Federal Reserve data, the average indebted U.S. household in 2013 shouldered credit card debt of more than $15,000 (although that figure is skewed by a relatively small number of extremely debt-ridden families). While U.S. credit card debt has fallen since the height of the recent recession, and pales in comparison to average mortgage debt (about $148,000) and student loan debt (about $32,000), it still remains a major burden for millions of U.S. consumers who cumulatively owe upwards of $850 billion to credit card companies.

So how do credit cards actually work? And more importantly, how do the credit card companies make their millions from all your swipes? Animator Josh Kurz explains.


Josh Kurz started out as an embryo, 53 times smaller than a US nickel. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he began at an early age fusing the abstract concepts of science and comedy. Now he works as an independent filmmaker specializing in humorous science explainers ranging from the economics of voting to why some people (like he himself) hate cilantro. His work has been featured on WGBH, ABC, PBS, NPR, TEDed, and Radiolab.

How Poverty Is Measured in America, Explained in Two Cartoons

Includes video and cartoon infographics

During his State of the Union Address delivered 50 years ago on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” At the time, roughly 19 percent of Americans were living below the newly developed federal poverty line. Johnson’s declaration ushered in a wave of social welfare legislation — part of a set of domestic reforms that became known as “The Great Society.” It led to the creation of health and education safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps. By 1969, when he left office, the poverty rate had dropped by more than a third, to about 12 percent. Continue reading

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

Continue reading