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.

Visualizing Income Equality in Major World Economies

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

Years after a global crisis, the world’s largest economies are again growing, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

Every major economy on earth is expanding at once, a synchronous wave of growth that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.

A tweet on the subject prompted a friend to respond with a question about whether income inequality has grown — and that in turn prompted a quick exploration of data provided by the World Bank.

One of its many indicators is the GINI index, which measures income distribution by country and creates a score. A 0 score means absolute equality, and 100 represents absolute inequality.

These data, based on country-by-country surveys, are imperfect and incomplete, with most countries missing several years of data. The United States, for example, had only five annual estimates in the last two decades. South Korea, where I live now, had only four. Strangely, a few smaller countries had more complete data. Honduras had all but one year, for example.

Given these limits, I focused on the top-25 economies, some of which were missing scores. In these cases, I carried over the most-recent data to maintain a consistent, if imprecise, trend line.

The data are interesting in some cases. Here are the countries, listed in order of their gross national product rankings:

Happy Valentine’s Day, America: Charting Our Declining Marriage Rate

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

It’s Valentine’s Day, a perfect time to note that the marriage rate in the United States has been on a steady decline for decades, save for a brief spike in 2012.

So romantic.

Here’s the rate per 1,000 people since 1997:

You can also view that rate by state. What’s up with you, Hawaii? (I’ve excluded Nevada, which skewed the axes for all the small multiples because of its freewheeling marriage culture). There are some interesting trends here, but most states remain relatively close to the national rate:

Here’s the 2015 marriage rate, by state, on a tile grid map:

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples, Part 2

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

I posted recently about how the state-by-state unemployment rate has changed during my lifetime. The result was a small multiples grid that put the states in context with one another.

Today I’ve created a new version aimed at identifying more precisely how each state has differed from the national unemployment rate during the last four decades. The lines show the percentage point difference — above (worst) or below (better) — from the national rate.

This view allows us easily to identify the most anomalous states in both directions (West Virginia, for example, had quite an unemployment spike during the 1980s; South Dakota, on the other hand, has never been worse than the national rate).

There’s plenty more to explore in this quick remix:

Four Decades of State Unemployment Rates, in Small Multiples

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

There’s good news this week in the monthly jobs report, the latest sign that the economy, however grudgingly, has healed from the financial crisis nine years ago:

The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the Labor Department said, from 4.9 percent. The last time it was this low was August 2007. That was the month, you may recall, when global money markets first froze up because of losses on United States mortgage-related bonds: early tremors of what would become a recession four months later and a global financial crisis nine months after that.

These things, of course, are cyclical. Here’s how the unemployment rate has changed, by state, during my lifetime:

See a full-screen version for a larger grid.

How Far Above (Or Below) .500 Did Each MLB Team Finish This Season?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

I live in South Korea, where it isn’t always easy to watch American baseball (unless you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Texas Rangers). So I’m catching up with data.

Someday I’ll Say Goodbye to Seoul. I Might Miss the Weather.

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Weather

Note: I followed my wife, a foreign correspondent for NPR News, to Seoul last year. This is one of a series of posts exploring our adopted country’s demographics, politics and other nerdy data stuff. Let me know if you have ideas for future posts.

I’ve been in Seoul just over a year, and I can’t stay here forever, so I’m starting to think seriously about the next city. For me, a key consideration is weather (and, you know, work and kids’ schools and such).

Seoul’s been pretty great, especially the relatively mild summers. But what can I expect from the next town? Here are the average monthly temperatures for the likely contenders. Some are warmer than others:


Or maybe one of these 269 places?

Data source: NOAA Comparative Climate Data