What is the Great Gatsby curve?

From The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy: The class divide is already toxic, and is fast becoming unbridgeable – You’re probably part of the problem by Matthew Stewart (June 2018) in The Atlantic. (Figure 2)

The Great Gatsby curve represents the correlation between income inequality and intergenerational income elasticity. In short, the greater the income inequality in a country the greater the relationship between a child’s income and their parent’s income.

The Atlantic article, The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy: The class divide is already toxic, and is fast becoming unbridgeable – You’re probably part of the problem by Matthew Stewart (June 2018)  is an excellent example of weaving important quantitative information (great for a QL course), including the Great Gatsby curve, to tell an important story.

Rising immobility and rising inequality aren’t like two pieces of driftwood that happen to have shown up on the beach at the same time, he noted. They wash up together on every shore. Across countries, the higher the inequality, the higher the IGE (see Figure 2). It’s as if human societies have a natural tendency to separate, and then, once the classes are far enough apart, to crystallize.

The post What is The Great Gatsby Curve? by David Vandivier (6/11/2013) has an animated gif that explains the curve well. To update or recreate the chart, you can get country gini values from the CIA World Factbook.  Intergenerational income elasticity can be found in figure 1 of a the paper Inequality from generation to generation:the United States in Comparison by Miles Corak (2012).  Intergenerational Social Mobility in OECD Countries January 2010 OECD Journal: Economic Studies 2010(1):6-6 Orsetta Causa  and Åsa Johansson is another source.  If you find more recent data let us know.

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What are the prospects for new college grads?

EPI has an answer with its report Class of 2018 College edition by Elise Gould, Zane Mokhiber, & Julia Wolfe  (3/10/18).  The report has 16 key findings and 10 graphs (the graphs and associated data are available).  For example,

Women make up about half of 21- to 24-year-olds, but well over half (57.3 percent) of young college degree holders are women.

While the unemployment rate for white graduates has essentially recovered to within 0.5 percentage points of its 2000 level, unemployment rates for other racial/ethnic groups remain higher than for whites and are significantly higher than their 2000 levels. (see the graph here from EPI)

Whites represent just over half (54.7 percent) of the young adult population but two-thirds of those with a college degree; AAPIs are also disproportionately represented among those young adults with a college degree. Young black and Hispanic adults between the ages of 21 and 24 are far less likely to be college graduates relative to their representation in the population.

The report is worth reading and using in QL or data driven courses.

What is the CEO to worker pay gap?

U.S. Publicly held companies now have to report CEO and median worker salaries (this was part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010) and Bloomberg has an article, Alphabet CEO Page Makes a Tiny Fraction
Compared to Its Median Employee by Alicia Ritcey and Jenn Zhao (5/15/18), with an interactive graph (see image).   Mattel “wins” with a CEO to median worker pay ratio of 4,987-1. Walmart “wins” in the consumer staple category with 1,188-1 ratio.  In the interactive graph there is a button on the top right that hides outliers. This is useful, but be conscious of whether it is on or off.

The Guardian article ‘CEOs don’t want this released’: US study lays bare extreme pay-ratio problem by Edward Helmore (5/16/18)  provides some context and a summary.  The Bloomberg graph is being updated daily.  Rep. Keith Elliston’s staff prepared the report Rewarding or Hoarding? An Examination of Pay Ratios Revealed by Dodd-Frank, which has the data of the first 225 Fortune 500 companies to report and and details on the data collection. The data in the report can be used in statistics courses to test differences by sector.  At some point maybe Bloomberg will post a spreadsheet of the data (one can also ask for it too).

What is an explanation for the racial disparities in student loan debt?

From Parents’ Wealth Helps Explain Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt by Fenaba R. Addo

Fenaba R. Addo has an explanation in the article Parents’ Wealth Helps Explain Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt at the Federal Reserve bank of St Louis.

An analysis of data from a youth survey found that 58 percent of black young adults reported that their parents contributed an average of $4,200 over the course of their college career. That compares to an average of $12,000 given by 72 percent of white families.

Finances by race is summarized in table 1, copied here. It is note that “All averages are statistically different at the 5 percent level by race, indicating that the differences are not a result of random chance.”  (This can be used in a statistics course and if you contact the author you might even get the data.) The article goes on to note how this may impact the future of these students:

As early as age 25, racial wealth gaps begin to emerge. In the age 25 asset survey, college-educated white young adults reported having approximately $17,000 more wealth than black young adults who had attended college. We calculated that a $10,000 increase in young adult net wealth is associated with 7.6 percent less student loan debt. Young adults with high net wealth may have benefited from transfers of wealth from their parents and subsequently may be in a better position to pay down their student loans quicker.


What are the sources and uses of U.S. engergy?

Every year the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Agency) updates their energy flow and consumption diagrams. They are now available for 2017 energy use and the graph here is primary energy consumption by source and sector. For example, petroleum fulfills 37% or our energy use, 72% of petroleum is for transportation, and petroleum represents 92% of our transportation energy uses. Fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal)  generated 78.1 quadrillion BTUs, which is 80% of our energy production, in 2017.  Links to this graph and the energy flow diagrams (total, petroleum, natural gas, coal, & electricity) are found at the bottom of the right side bar on the EIA Monthly Energy Review.

Past diagrams, dating back to 1996, are available at the Energy Flow Archives.  In 2016 fossil fuels generated 78.5 quadrillion BTUs, which was 81% of our energy production.  In 2008 (the first year this diagram appears) it was 83.4 quadrillion BTUs and 84%.

How does the U.S. government spend tax dollars?

Federal government spending is reported on the usgovernmentspending.com website. On the main page you will find this pie chart of fiscal year 2018 (Oct 2017 through Sept 2018). The two biggest categories are health care 22% and pensions including social security 19%, with interest at 6%. For some context you can read  What does the federal government spend your tax dollars on? Social insurance programs, mostly by  D. Desilver (4/4/17).

In fiscal year 2016, which ended this past Sept. 30, the federal government spent just under $4 trillion, and about $2.7 trillion – more than two-thirds of the total – went for various kinds of social insurance (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, unemployment compensation, veterans benefits and the like). Another $604 billion, or 15.3% of total spending, went for national defense; net interest payments on government debt was about $240 billion, or 6.1%. Education aid and related social services were about $114 billion, or less than 3% of all federal spending. Everything else – crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, national parks, foreign aid and much, much more – accounted for the remaining 6%.

The usgovernmentspending.com page is a maze of information, but you can find plenty of data and charts if interested. For example, you can find total government spending (fed, state, local) data  and charts by categories. There are certainly projects for many courses, including stats, waiting to be created from these pages.

How does air pollution compare by country?

The State of Global Air 2018 has an interactive air pollution graph to compare countries and regions.  Graph and data are both available. For example, the graph here is Average Seasonal Population-Weighted Ozone (ppb) for Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. (in yellow), as well as the global average (in black).   We can select ambient particulate matter pollution and household air pollution from solid fuels, along with most countries or regions. There is also a tab for health impact as the number of deaths (this is not a rate so larger countries will likely have more deaths) related to  the particular air pollution for the selected country. The State of Global Air 2018 explains their methods, has a full report, and maps.

What is the state of food security and nutrition in the world?

Read the FAO report How close are we to #ZeroHunger? The state of food security and nutrition in the world (2017) .  The online report has numerous chart that can be downloaded, such as the one here.

After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger appears to be on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the global population.

In addition to an increase in the proportion of the world’s population that suffers from chronic hunger (prevalence of undernourishment), the number of undernourished people on the planet has also increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015.

The report provides information on stunting, wasting, overweight children and adults, anemia, and breastfeeding. The data isn’t directly available on the web page, but some of it can be found in the full report.

Where does the U.S. rank on the world press freedom index?

According to the Reporters Without Borders index, the U.S. ranks 45 (out of 180) in 2018, just behind Romania and South Korea. Here is what they have to say about the U.S.

US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has been under increasing attack over the past few years, and the first year of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report. He has declared the press an “enemy of the American people” in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term “fake news” in retaliation for critical reporting. He has even called for revoking certain media outlets’ broadcasting licenses. The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the US government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job. It appears the Trump effect has only amplified the disappointing press freedom climate that predated his presidency. Whistleblowers face prosecution under the Espionage Act if they leak information of public interest to the press, while there is still no federal “shield law” guaranteeing reporters’ right to protect their sources. Journalists and their devices continue to be searched at the US border, while some foreign journalists are still denied entry into the US after covering sensitive topics like Colombia’s FARC or Kurdistan.

You can download their data and since the rankings stared in 2002 you might be able to get  access to past data (some of it is available in their archives). Their methodology is explained and they have an interactive map.

How many Billion dollar weather/climate disasters occur in the U.S. each year?

NOAA has your answer on their Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Time Series page. The page includes an interactive version of the graph here that allows you to select disaster types and adjust for CPI.  The data is available to download.

Determining the cost of disasters is not simple and they note:

In May 2012, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information — then known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) — hosted a workshop including academic, federal, and private sector experts to discuss best practices in evaluating disaster costs.

A research article “U.S. Billion-dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Data Sources, Trends, Accuracy and Biases” (Smith and Katz, 2013) regarding the loss data we use, our methods and any potential bias was published in 2013. This research article found the net effect of all biases appears to be an underestimation of average loss. In particular, it is shown that the factor approach can result in an underestimation of average loss of roughly 10–15%. This bias was corrected during a reanalysis of the loss data to reflect new loss totals.

A climate.gov post by Deke Arndt (4/13/18) , The all things being equal edition, discusses the connection between weather and climate:

Relative sea level in and around Boston has risen about half a foot in the last 50 years. So, all else being equal, the same storm 50 years ago would have six inches less water to push inland. That’s a big, big difference, and one that has developed on the climate scale.

That’s how climate comes in, even in these weather events. Many times, in the discussion of weather and climate, we mistakenly consider these two words, and the concepts they define, to be mutually exclusive frames.