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NYT indebtedness graphs

A couple of weeks ago on the Junk Charts blog there was a post showing a less-than-ideal New York Times graphic and another, easier-to-use version of it. I won’t show those graphs here, because anyone reading this should go see that post … And then, of course, come back.

I liked the Junk Charts version, but I wanted to try a version where the length of each line corresponds to the amount of debt.

The graph I made might be overwhelming and/or confusing, so to help with that I’ll show a piece of the graph and try to explain it. First, the context. The graph contains debt information for each of the countries Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain (PIIGS). They have loaned money to each other, and have also borrowed from Britain, Germany, and France. The original New York Times graphic shows no loans from PIIGS nations to Britain, Germany, or France, so the graphs I made might be incomplete (if they are based on incomplete information).

On the right is the part of the graph for Portugal. The bar just below “Portugal” shows the total indebtedness to the other countries (other PIIGS countries and Britain, Germany, and France), which is $13,037 per person of Portugal.

Sidebar: Notice the bar for total indebtedness is shown on a log scale. If you’re unfamiliar with the log scale, notice that the distance between 10 and 100 (= 10 x 10) is equal to the distance between 100 and 1000 (= 100 x 10). Multiples on a log scale have the same distance — for instance, the distance between 10 and 10 x 10 is the same as the distance between 100 and 10 x 100. If you’re more used to a linear scale, the numbers gets more and more scrunched the larger they get, so large numbers that you would expect to be far apart are near together. Be sure to look at the stated values of the totals and subtotals if you’re wanting to compare them.

Back to the graph: The second section (see below) shows the loans to other PIIGS countries in black and loans from other PIIGS countries in red (just like the Junk Charts version). The size of these lines are determined by the size of loan, per capita (per person in Portugal). Thus each red line shows how much Portugal owes per person in Portugal, each black line shows how much is owed to Portugal, per person in Portugal. When the graph switches to Ireland, the numbers are per person in Ireland. Again, distances are on a log scale. The curved lines show the scale for these individual loan amounts, a curved line for $10 per person, $100, etc. At the bottom of this section, the subtotal for just these loans is shown (-3,131).In the final section, loans from Britain, Germany, and France are shown, with distances again on a log scale, and again a subtotal for just these loans.

Complicated? Yes, but there is a lot of information there. Too complicated? I’m not sure. Maybe for some uses and not others.

Here is the full graphic showing Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain: pdf.

I tried another version where the bars for totals and subtotals are on a linear scale, and the individual loan amounts are on the log scale: pdf.

Finally, I tried some variations on the pentagons: pdf.

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