Economists, Reporters Discuss the Most Important Economic Stories of 2013

The Atlantic asked 41 reporters and economists from across the U.S. what the most important economic story of 2013 was according to data and graphs. Here’s Heidi Moore:

Here’s why I love this chart: it nails the issue with the inequality at the center of our economy right now. Corporate profits are our only consistently rising metric of economic success. Everything else that matters is bumping along the bottom. Job openings have only modest gains, and nowhere near what we had before the crash. Personal income is stagnant. Unemployment is still absurdly high. That leads to the policy question: is it our goal as a country to fuel only corporate profits? Or do we have some other responsibility to the citizenry?

And here’s Eddy Elfenbein from Crossing Wall Street:

Here’s the Medicals Costs portion of the CPI divided by the Core CPI. This trend has been rising for decades, but it’s slowed down recently. It’s still too early to call is a trend. But obviously, if healthcare inflation soon becomes like regular inflation, then it’s a game changer.

There’s a lot more and a lot of interesting data to think about here, but basically, the labor market has not been great, but the stock market and corporate profits did well in 2013.

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7 Comments / Post A Comment

Actually this post succinctly illustrates two of the biggest tragedies in economics reporting in 2013:

1. Reporters who use Excel default colors and designs in their charts. (See Fig. 1)

2. FRED switched to dynamically generated SVG charts earlier this year, which means you can *change how they look*, but not only does no one do this, FRED themselves also stuck with their ugly old defaults. (See Fig. 2)

Also, 2b, reporters: if your readers know what the CIVPART and DGS10 axes on your chart mean, they can look up their own damn charts. Relabel those suckers with human words!

ETA: Oops, looked more closely and it seems Elfenbein added circular markers, for some reason. People, buy the economics reporter in your life a set of Edward Tufte books for Christmas, please.

Mike Dang (#2)

@stuffisthings So much shade. :)

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

@stuffisthings Thank you. Thank you so much. God. I’m an economist and this pisses me off. (It’s not just economics reporting with this problem…)

sherlock (#3,599)

@stuffisthings Yes, yes, yes. I am glad I am not the only one who notices these small things. For example, the fact that Fig. 1 has that completely unnecessary extra decimal of precision on the y-axis labels also annoys me, and I don’t think % Change Since 2000 is really an accurate description if 2000 is set to 100%.

Allison (#4,509)

@stuffisthings at least they’re using the defaults from a modern version of excel. We’ve got colors on spreadsheets that haven’t been a default color selection since 1998 but the sheets have just been resaved with new years on the end since then (or earlier).

garysixpack (#4,263)

My favorite graph is Justin Wolfers’s. He has a nice graph from CBO that show a bump of the deficit 2008-2014, and then it flattens out to 2022. This is great news!

Prof. Wolfers even kindly gives you a reference to the graph, from CBO. If you actually went to the CBO document that Wolfers references, it turns out the graph goes all the way to 2038. To 2038? Why did Wolfers stop at 2022, you wonder? Could it be the full CBO graph shows the deficit going up another 50% (just eyeballing) from 2022-2038, and it would ruin his spin? Nah, I’m sure it was just honest oversight.

garysixpack (#4,263)

Oh, here’s another good one from Derek Thompson. He had a nice graph from 1983-2010 that shows the percentage ownership of equity by wealth class.
And Thompson says: “It was a banner year for the latter. And that made it a banner year for the top 10 percent of the country, which holds about 80 percent of all stock market wealth.”
But on his very graph, it shows equity ownership of the top 1% is about 67% in 1983, and it has dropped to 37% in 2010. The next 9% owned about 35% in 1983 and about 40% in 2010. In fact, it looks like every wealth class owns a higher percentage of stock market equity except for the top 1%. Neat.
BTW, 2011-2013 have been good equity years, and the “poor” have sat out of the market from fear. I assume these would be better years for the top n%, but the long-term trend is still undeniable.

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