RECENT POSTS

Map: San Francisco’s Affordable Rent Gap Is Enough to Make You Sick … Literally

Includes interactive map
housing map

San Francisco Department of Public Health

Looking for an apartment to rent in San Francisco?

Brace yourself.

Last year, the City by the Bay earned the dubious distinction of having America’s most expensive rental market, beating out longtime heavyweight New York. Due in part to the surge in the region’s tech-fueled jobs market (some “friend” indeed, Zuckerberg!) and the city’s longstanding shortage of affordable housing units, the spike has led to jaw-dropping rents, with the median monthly rate of a mere studio at more than $2,200 a month, according to apartmentlist.com. Continue reading

The Flammable West: Mega-Fires in the Age of Climate Change (with real-time fire map)

Includes interactive maps and charts

As of early August 2013, 36 wildfires were burning in eight western states and Alaska, including six in California and nine new large fires in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Already this year, more than 2.5 million acres have gone up in smoke — an area bigger than Yellowstone National Park. And that’s actually a lot smaller than its been at this point in some recent years (last year, almost twice as many acres had burned by early August). Continue reading

Health Map: Where You Live Can Determine How Long You Live

Includes interactive map of life expectancy rates throughout the U.S.

Location, location, location.

It can be a matter of life and death, according to a recent report published by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics. Presenting a snapshot of America’s overall wellness, researchers crunched health data from every county in the country (see interactive map below), and found that although Americans are exercising more and living longer, we still lag behind the world’s other high-income nations in longevity (the U.S ranks 51st in world), and that’s largely due to poor diet and over eating. Even with the increase in physical activity, obesity rates continue to rise in almost every county, and heart disease has remained the leading cause of death. Average life expectancy for American men is now 76, up from 67 four decades ago. And for women, it’s now 81, up from 76. These rates though  vary dramatically from county to county, with socioeconomic status serving as one of the key determinants.

At 81 years, men in Fairfax, VA have the highest life expectancy in the country. But drive just 350 miles to McDowell County, WV and it drops to a just 64 years for men, on par with the African nation of Gambia (for men and women combined). Meanwhile, women in Marin County live to 85, on average, the country’s highest life expectancy (compared with the lowest, at 72, in Perry County, KY).  In fact, as Kelly O’Mara and Olivia Hubert-Allen note in KQED’s News Fix, the Bay Area made out quite well in the report, with San Francisco ranking first in having the fewest obese men in the country.

Mouse over IHM’s incredibly detailed map to see how life expectancy rates and various health conditions in counties throughout the country have changed over the last three decades. Note that what you’ll see first is the health map from 1985. To see 2010 rates, use the time slider at the bottom of the graphic.

Map: In Legalizing Gay Marriage, England Joins Growing International Community

Includes map

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court let California proceed with same-sex marriages, making it the eleventh state where gay couples can legally wed. The court’s ruling, however, does not impact marriage laws in the remaining 39 states that haven’t extended marriage rights. While public support for same-sex marriage has grown steadily, the U.S still has a long way to go before it joins the ranks of the 16 other countries — spanning five continents — that have enacted national same-sex marriage laws. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize the practice. More recent additions include, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand and France, which all changed amended their laws this year (in Uruguay and New Zealand the law doesn’t go into effect until August).

England is the latest country to join the fold. On July 15 British lawmakers passed legislation — which the Queen Elizabeth officially approved — that will enable same-sex marriages to commence in England and Wales.

The map above shows the 16 countries with national same-sex marriage laws. Not included are the U.S. and Mexico, where same-sex marriage is legal in only certain jurisdictions.

Where Does Your T-Shirt Come From? Follow Its Global Journey

Includes interactive visualization (Prezi)

Best viewed in full screen mode

A simple cotton T-shirt doesn’t seem quite so simple when you try to trace the vast global process involved in making it.

The extraordinary success of fast fashion giants like H&M, Zana and Forever 21 lies squarely in the ability to produce a massive amount of clothing – billions of garments a year – in the cheapest, quickest way possible. It seems pretty counterintuitive that the least expensive way to make a shirt is to buy cotton grown in Texas, mill and dye it in China, manufacture it in Bangladesh, and then ship it half a world away to an H&M or Gap store in San Francisco.  But when you factor in the dramatically lower labor and material costs offered by suppliers in developing countries, this kind of global supply chain model begins to make more sense. Continue reading

11 Million Strong: Counting America’s Undocumented Immigrants

Includes interactive map
Credit: Flickr/Jonathon Mcintosh

A roadside sign just north of the Tijuana border crossing. (Credit: Flickr/Jonathon Mcintosh)

What’s the plan for America’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants?

It’s the million dollar question, and the most divisive element of the Senate’s sprawling new effort to overhaul the country’s messy immigration system. After months of painstaking negotiation, a bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight”, recently unveiled a proposal to — among other things — create a path to citizenship for the millions who live here in the shadows. But legislators have made abundantly clear that this proposal is a far cry from “amnesty”. The path they outlined for almost all the undocumented (except for young “DREAMers” who would be on a streamlined 5-year path) is a tedious, decade-plus-long process full of steep hurdles and strict conditions, in which citizenship is a distant destination at the end of a long journey. Continue reading

Think You Know Your State’s Voting Rules?

Includes interactive map and video
class="wp-media-credit">Flickr:Miish

Flickr/Miish

When it comes to America’s eclectic patchwork of voting laws, there is certainly no lack of variety. Rules often vary dramatically from one state to another, and voting in some areas is a significantly harder feat than in others.

Take Virginia and West Virginia. While the latter doesn’t require any ID to vote, its neighbor to the east has one of the strictest ID laws in the nation. And while Virginia permanently strips certain types of violent ex-felons from voting, ex-felons in West Virgina convicted of the same exact crimes can regain the right to vote after completion of their parole.

To add to the confusion, a number of states have recently attempted to dramatically change their own rules on voter ID requirements, resulting in a constantly changing set of laws that can often leave voters feeling baffled and unprepared as elections approach (see examples at the bottom).

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark law that is widely considered among the most effective and successful pieces of U.S. civil rights legislation. At issue is a provision in the law called Section 5 that applies only to specific parts of the country with a history of discriminatory voting practices. It covers nine states, mainly in the South, plus regions within seven other states (including California). The law requires that all covered areas receive approval from the U.S. Justice Department before implementing any changes to voting laws.

The map below helps sort through the hodgepodge of individual state laws that determine who can vote. We’ve ranked and color-coded each state by the severity of its voting laws (taking voter ID, felon voting, early voting, and Section 5 into account). See the notes below the map for explanations on asterisked states that have recently changed laws, are waiting for federal approval to do so, or just happen to have their own unique rules.

State ID Legend Continue reading

America’s Mass Shooting Dilemma

Includes interactive map
Source: Mother Jones

Source: Mother Jones

In the last 30 years, there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states, from Hawaii to Massachusetts.

That’s according to reporting by Mother Jones, which produced a comprehensive series examining gun deaths and gun control in America (in which mass shootings are defined as incidents where four or more people are murdered in a public place).

Next week, the U.S. Senate begins debate on a set of gun control proposals that came about largely in response to the horrific mass shootings last December at Sandy Hook. While lawmakers remain fiercely divided on the issue, there remains, at least, a general acknowledgement that mass shootings happen far too frequently in this country, and that action of some kind is needed to prevent future tragedies of such magnitude. Continue reading

The Supreme Court Ended Mixed-Race Marriage Bans Less than 50 Years Ago

Includes video and map

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The last time the Supreme Court took up a case on marriage equality was 46 years ago when about one-third of all states in the country still had laws that banned people of different races from marrying each other. This week all eyes are on the High Court as it prepares to hear oral arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage. At issue is whether gay marriage bans violate the rights those couples have to equal treatment under the law, as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The Court’s rulings on both cases – expected by June – will likely be considered landmark decisions, ones that could potentially result in a dramatic widening of marriage rights for same-sex couples throughout the country … or a preservation of the status quo. The issue, though, harkens back to another, often forgotten, landmark civil rights decision from 1967 that similarly addressed marriage equality and the concept of equal protection of the law,  long before the notion of legalized same-sex marriage was considered even a remote possibility. Continue reading

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