Monday, August 31, 2015

Puzzling World

Here is a busy graphic representing the composition of the world's economy. Countries are given polygonal sections proportional to the relative size of their economies. Each sector is divided into three smaller regions: Most lightly colored is Agriculture, somewhat darker is Industry, darker yet, the sub-segment that is greatest for most countries, is Services. Starting with the largest (US) the polygons seem to be arranged in a rough Pareto-chart fashion from largest to smallest in a counter-clockwise fashion. Although, individual countries are hard to locate, those of similar size contributions are somewhat easy to compare. I found it fun to puzzle out comparisons that I found surprising, for example, US industry has about the same area as China's. Mathew Yglesias from Vox points out others:
You can see some cool things here.
  • For example, compare the US and China. Our economy is much larger than theirs, but our industrial sectors are comparable in size, and China’s agriculture sector looks to be a little bit larger. Services are what drive the entire gap.
  • The UK and France have similarly sized overall economies, but agriculture is a much bigger slice of the French pie.
  • For all that Russia gets played up as some kind of global menace, its economy produces less than Italy. Put all the different European countries together, and Russia looks pathetic.
  • You often hear the phrase “China and India,” but you can see here that the two Asian giants are in very different shape economically.
  • The only African nation on this list, South Africa, has a smaller economy than Colombia.
This graphic has gotten criticism as being too busy, too unorganized, and too difficult to make comparison, among others. But I do like the puzzle-it-out quality of the graphic. It makes us work a little to understand and make comparisons. I especially like the quote from Andrew Gelman at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science:
Paradoxically, the best thing about this graph may also be its worst: Its tricky, puzzle-like characteristic (it even looks like some sort of hi-tech jigsaw puzzle) makes it hard to read, hard to follow, but at the same time gratifying for the reader who goes to the trouble of figuring it out.
From howmuch, via Vox, via SM,CS and SS

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