What do you know about the top 1%?

The Chicago Booth post, Never mind the 1 percent Let’s talk about the 0.01 percent, provides an insightful summary of income distribution at the top.

Mankiw noted that the 1 percent’s share of total income, excluding capital gains, rose from about 8 percent in 1973 to 17 percent in 2010, the latest figures available at the time. “Even more striking is the share earned by the top 0.01 percent. . . . This group’s share of total income rose from 0.5 percent in 1973 to 3.3 percent in 2010. These numbers are not easily ignored. Indeed, they in no small part motivated the Occupy movement, and they have led to calls from policymakers on the left to make the tax code more progressive.”

There is detailed exposition on who makes up the top and how they got there. For instance,

Technology, from the internet to media such as ESPN and Bloomberg terminals, has given elite athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and financiers the ability to profit on a much larger, global scale, making the fruits of their labor more valuable than what previous superstars, such as, say, Pelé or Babe Ruth, brought in. Ruth’s peak salary of $80,000 would be worth about $1.1 million in 2016 dollars, around one-thirtieth of the $33 million the highest-paid Major League Baseball player, pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, made in salary alone in 2016.

And hedge-fund managers make multiples more than top athletes and entertainers. James Simons of Renaissance Technologies and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates each made more than $1 billion in 2016, even though, as Institutional Investor’s Alpha reported, the top-25 hedge-fund earners took in the least as a group since 2005, largely because of the industry’s overall poor investment performance.

This is an excellent article about income and how it is distributed, with a number of graphs suitable for QL based courses.

How hot was the U.S. in 2017?

According to NOAA’s article, Assessing the U.S. Climate in 2017, it was the third hottest year on record for the U.S. It also wasn’t an El Nino year. In summary,

This was the third warmest year since record keeping began in 1895, behind 2012 (55.3°F) and 2016 (54.9°F), and the 21st consecutive warmer-than-average year for the U.S. (1997 through 2017). The five warmest years on record for the contiguous U.S. have all occurred since 2006.

For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska had an above-average annual temperature. Despite cold seasons in various regions throughout the year, above-average temperatures, often record breaking, during other parts of the year more than offset any seasonal cool conditions.

The article has other useful graphs and information, including a summary for December.  Related data is linked to their Climatological Rankings page.

What would minimum wage be if it grew with productivity?

According to the 3rd chart of EPI’s Top Charts of 2017, U.S. minimum wage would be $19.33 per hour if it grew at the same rate as productivity.  If it simply grew at the rate of average workers it would be $11.62 per hour.

The expectation that the minimum wage rise in step with broader trends in the economy would not have been unreasonable for previous generations—that was the trend throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Today’s minimum wage workers have been harmed both by the failure to raise the minimum wage in step with pay for typical workers and by the huge and growing gap between these nonsupervisory wages and economy-wide productivity. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Such a raise would certainly bring the pay of minimum wage workers closer to providing a decent quality of life, even though it would still fall short of what the economy could have delivered for low-wage workers over the past 50 years.

All twelve of EPI’s Top Charts of 2017 include data and you can download the chart.

Is there a wealth gap due to discrimination?

The EPI provides evidence for yes in the 6th of their top charts of 2017, The racial wealth gap is the clearest legacy of past discrimination in housing markets. Their chart shows the differences for mean and median household wealth for black and white households. They key is housing:

Besides facing discrimination in employment and wages, black families historically have been shut out of the most important wealth-building market: housing. Overall, home equity makes up about two-thirds of all wealth for the typical household. In short, for median families, the racial wealth gap is overwhelmingly a housing wealth gap. And this housing wealth gap is no accident; it is the outcome of intentional policies at all levels of government, in particular housing policies that prevented blacks from acquiring land, created redlining and restrictive covenants, and encouraged lending discrimination. These policies created and reinforced the racial wealth gap we are still struggling to address.

You can download the data and graph for all of EPI’s top charts of 2017.

Thank You from Sustainability Math

Happy New Year and thank you to all of you who have stopped by Sustainability Math this past year. If people didn’t visit the blog, then I’d stop writing.  Posts will begin again next week. In the meantime, consider following Sustainability Math on Twitter and Facebook. Also, please let friends and colleagues know about the blog.

How are beavers creating a climate feedback loop?

Credit Jay Frandsen/Parks Canada

The New York Times article, Beavers Emerge as Agents of Arctic Destruction, explains:

… as climate change warms the Arctic and thaws the permafrost, the growing season extends. What was once tundra gives way to brush.

This may allow beavers to move north.

But in the tundra, the vast treeless region in the Far North, beaver behavior creates new water channels that can thaw the permanently frozen ground, or permafrost.

What remains is a pitted landscape, with boggy depressions, that directs warmer water onto the permafrost, leading to further thawing. As permafrost thaws it releases carbon dioxide and methane, which in turn contributes to global warming and helps increase the speed that the Arctic, which is already warming faster than the rest of the planet, defrosts.

This is an interesting article with satellite photos showing how beavers have changed the landscape.

In which city has winter warmed the most?

Find out by going to Climate Central’s post, See How Much Winters Have Been Warming in Your City.  The winner is Burlington, Vermont, with about 7 degrees F of warming since 1970 (graph here from the post). There is a drop down menu where you can select from most major cities in the U.S. They don’t provide the data, unfortunately, but they do provide a clear methodology so that you can create the data set for your city. You can get weather data from NOAA Climate Data Online. There is great potential here for student projects in statistics courses.

How many people don’t have access to electricity?

The International Energy Agency’s Energy Access Outlook 2017 has your answer. For example, the chart here answers the question for 2000 and 2015 with an interesting graphic that includes how the change occurred. In 2000, 1684 million people lacked access, 1130 million people gained access, but population grew by 557 million people, leaving 1111 million people without access in 2015. The graph is interactive on the page and breaks these changes down into four regions. There are eight other interesting charts related to electricity as well as access to clean cooking.

How do types of electricity production compare?

The Our World in Data blog post, A sense of units and scale for electrical energy production and consumption has the graph here. It provides a comparison of the scale of different types of electricity production along with comparisons to consumption. For example the Three Gorges Dam is worth 270,000 MWh while the Hoover Dam provides 11,000 MWh.  On the other hand the Alta onshore wind form generates 7,342 MWh.  The post has a nice discussion of units as well as information about the types of electricity generation they highlight in the graphic.