China’s Imbalanced Trade with the United States, in Four Charts

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Policy & Politics

A trade war could be looming between the United States and China, fueled by President Trump’s fixation on the two nations’ unbalanced import-export relationship.

The trade imbalance between the two countries — which might not hurt the United States that much — stems from the fact that China sells more to us than it buys, essentially.

That’s largely driven by macroeconomic factors, not some malicious intent: China is a low-cost manufacturing powerhouse, and the United States is an economy dominated by domestic consumption.

These charts help explain the $570 billion overall trade relationship between world’s largest economies.

First, here’s how the trade has changed over time. The United States imported $460 billion in goods from China last year. That figure has steadily increased in recent decades as China emerged as Asia’s top manufacturer. Exports from the United States to China, which doesn’t yet have the same per-capita domestic consumption as America, haven’t kept pace (again, not that we should be worried).

Here’s the same data, told with a column chart. It shows trade between the two countries in proportion. About 20% of our trade with China last year, and over recent years, has been from exports. Imports represent about 80% of our goods exchanges, on the other hand.

The resulting balance of trade, or trade deficit in this case, has also grown steadily over the years. These charts show the change, year by year, since 1998. Red bars represent the growing trade deficit in billions of dollars by month.

This measure — the trade balance — varies widely by country. One way to examine the relationship with other countries is to look at the balance in the context of the respective total trade. How much does the balance represent as a percentage of overall transactions, for example?

These charts show that figure for America’s top-40 trading partners in 2008. Blue bars reflect a positive trade balance for the United States. Red bars mean it suffered a trade deficit with a particular country in a given year.

When examined this way, you can see that China isn’t the only country in the world to sell more to Americans than it buys. China’s deficit might be huge — its population and output is quite large — but the trade deficit looks similar to other countries figures when viewed proportionally.

Promo background image courtesy Keith Roper.

The Curious Case of South Korea’s Vanishing Washing Machine Exports

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, South Korea

The Trump administration last week announced that it planned to impose higher fees, known as tariffs, to countries that export washing machines and solar panels the United States.

The tariffs, prompted by complaints from American companies who feel disadvantaged by global trade, were applied across the world — even though they seem primarily aimed at two nations who dominate the market: China and South Korea.

That’s in part because both countries have moved their manufacturing around to avoid such duties. In South Korea’s case, the change in strategy by companies like LG and Samsung seems remarkably obvious in trade data — on washing machines, in particular.

A bit of background: The U.S. Census Bureau keeps detailed data on specific product exports, by country, to the United States. The data reflect the total export value by year and national origin — where the ships came from, essentially — not by companies’ home countries. So Samsung products made in China and exported from China look like Chinese exports.

This graphic shows one possible scenario for how the strategy played out. Washing machine exports from South Korea to the United States dropped dramatically, for example, after a complaint filed in late 2011 by Whirlpool, an American manufacturer. A year later, exports from China increased significantly (and have since fallen, perhaps reflecting other shifts in manufacturing locations, such as Southeast Asia, Mexico and/or the United States itself).

The Times’ story noted the South Korean companies’ concerns:

Samsung and LG described Whirlpool’s case as a protectionist grab designed to shut out products that American consumers find more attractive, and argued that such restrictions on their products would hurt consumers by raising prices.

The export change appears to be because South Korean washing machine companies moved their operations to China during 2013 — and later the the United States — perhaps in an effort to avoid the complaints or looming tariffs. Or because the change was good business for the companies.

Anyway, the data seems pretty obvious:

America Imports Lots of Stuff from China, Including Christmas Decorations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Last year, the United States imported more than $460 billion in goods — clothes, toys, gadgets, you name it — from China. Of course, our Christmas decorations were on that list, too.

Some $2.2 billion in fake trees, miniature lights and assorted ornaments came from the Middle Kingdom last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s detailed trade database.

The Christmas trade in ornaments is big business. It skyrocketed in the mid-1990s (like all products from China) and dipped during the recession (like all products from China).

Here’s a simple chart:

Merry Christmas. 圣诞节快乐.

Mapping South Korea’s Total and Foreign Populations — by Municipal District

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

South Korea, my adopted home for almost two years, has about 50 million residents as of the last census, in 2015. Most of them are settled in the country’s urban areas. About 22 million residents, for example, live in Seoul, the capital in the country’s northwest corner, and its adjacent province, Gyeonggi.

As an experiment to create a choropleth map with D3 and NPR’s dailygraphics rig, which drives most of the visualizations here, I’ve mapped the total population by municipal districts. In this example, Seoul is outlined with red:

I am, of course, not a citizen of South Korea. I’m a “foreigner” — as we’re referred to here. This is where the 1.3 million foreigners — many of them ethnic Koreans who immigrated from China — have settled across the country. Again, Seoul is outlined with red:

And this map shows the roughly 330,000 foreigners living in Seoul proper. This time I’ve highlighted Yongsan-gu, my home district in the city center:

Mapping Where ‘Americans’ Live

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Policy & Politics

Back during the Republican primaries, The Upshot published an interesting short post called the Geography of Trumpism. The reporters back then analyzed hundreds of demographic variables, by county, in an effort to determine which ones might be predictive of electoral support for the eventual GOP nominee.

Think: What’s the rate of mobile home ownership? Or what percentage of people in a particular place have college degrees? They found a key variable to explore:

When the Census Bureau asks Americans about their ancestors, some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.”

The places with high concentrations of these self-described Americans turn out to be the places Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has performed the strongest.

I’ve plotted the percentage of “American” ancestry, by county, on a national map. Keep in mind the data come from a five-year survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, so the accuracy in large counties is relatively safe.

But in smaller counties — say, those with fewer than 10,000 residents — the margins of error can be quite high. The results are even more problematic in the tiniest of counties. Still, this is the best public data we have, and it does produce some interesting geographic trends:

New Poverty Data Show Improving Economic Conditions in States

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Economic conditions continue to improve in America’s states, with many showing significant declines in their poverty rates, according to new survey data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About 14.7 percent of the American population had incomes last year that were below their respective poverty levels, which vary depending on household size — a significant decline from 2014.

NFL Geography: Where Were Professional Football Players Born?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Sports

nfl-players

Are states proportionally represented on the historical list of National Football League players? That’s the question I had four years ago when I posted two simple state-by-state maps summarizing players’ birth places.

That post has been surprisingly popular, so I decided to remix the visualization a bit — replacing the old choropleth maps with tile grids.

Mapping South Korea’s Foreigners

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, South Korea

korea-foreigners-seoul

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is part of an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

This week I looked at the population of foreign residents in South Korea, charting national origin and geographic distribution around the country. But if you don’t live here (and even if you do) that geography can be quite difficult to absorb without maps.

So, after a year of procrastination, I finally got the courage to tackle the detailed census and geography files from the Korean Statistical Information Service (you try loading Hangul characters in a database!).

Sanders Strongest in Educated Areas

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Last week we examined how the Democratic presidential campaigns have performed in the context of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election.

That analysis grouped Obama’s vote share into categories, highlighting how the country’s reddest and bluest counties have voted for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders so far in the Democratic primaries. Clinton, the clear frontrunner, performed best in areas where Obama was strongest against Mitt Romney. But Sanders did slightly better when majority black counties weren’t factored.

Here’s a look at the Democratic race (through the most-recent contests) in the context of voters’ educational attainment. Each candidate’s average vote share by county is grouped by the proportion of residents in those areas with at least a bachelor’s degree. Sanders doesn’t win among any group, but he generally performs best in places where voters have more education:

dems_edu

Clinton Dominates ‘Majority Minority’ Counties

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Policy & Politics

Hillary Clinton’s efforts to win over minority voters have paid off significantly in the Democratic primaries. Many of these voters simply aren’t feeling the Bern, according to voting results and demographics data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since January, Clinton and her main rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have faced off in 26 states, pulling about 15 million votes from 1,900 counties and county equivalents. (Votes in two states, Kansas and Minnesota, were calculated at the congressional district level).

Roughly 250 of the counties contested in the Democratic race are majority minority, meaning non-Hispanic whites there represent less than half the population. The majority in those places is as follows: Blacks (91 counties), Hispanics (64 counties) and Native Americans/Alaska natives (1 county). Another 93 counties have no ethnic or racial majority, making them quite diverse compared to much of America.

Clinton won all but seven of these majority minority counties.

To understand this phenomenon, it’s useful to take a look at her vote share on a map (inspired by The New York Times’ lovely interactive version here). She’s dominated the Deep South and Texas, places with high proportions of black and Hispanic voters, respectively:

primary_results_dems_clinton

Sanders’ map also clearly shows Clinton’s strength, except for a few places (remember Kansas and Minnesota’s maps would look different had votes been counted at the county level) outside the South and in New England, his home turf:

primary_results_dems_sanders

Here’s a map showing all 249 majority minority counties in the Democratic race thus far on top of Clinton’s vote share. As I mentioned, Sanders only won seven of them (and only one with a population greater than 10,000):

primary_results_dems_clinton_mm

Clinton’s dominance is particularly evident among black voters specifically. Of all the counties in the race, not just those that are majority minority, about 380 have at least a 25-percent black population. Clinton, somehow, won them all, edging Sanders by 1.5 million votes:

primary_results_dems_clinton_black

Of course, none of this is a surprise. Black voters in overwhelmingly side with the Democrats, and Clinton is the Democratic front runner. But it’s interesting, I suppose, that Sanders hasn’t done better.

Thoughts?