Archive for the 'Economics' Category

Mondays with Minard: Cotton and Wool Comparisons

During the Civil War, the Confederacy attempted to use “Cotton Diplomacy” to force Europe’s major industrial nations to enter the war.  The strategy was simple–British and French textile mills depended on Southern cotton, and if that cotton was cut off because of the war, it would force the European powers to intervene in the conflict to save their domestic industries.  The strategy failed, of course, in spite of the near elimination of Southern cotton from the international market during the war.  Today’s map gives a hint as to why.

The map above is a curious comparative map of the quantities of cotton and wool imported to Europe in 1858 and 1861.  Blue represents cotton and wool from the United States, the orange from British territories in South Asia, and brown from the Levant (the East Mediterranean).  Pink represents cotton and wool imported to Britain that was subsequently re-exported to Europe.  There is also a small sliver of imports from Brazil, also in a light blue, though the original color may have faded.  One millimeter represents 5,000 tons of cotton or wool.  Click here or on the picture above to see the map enlarged.

In 1861, the Union had not yet implemented its wartime blockade of the South, and cotton and wool could still be exported.  Nevertheless, the British were facing continuous demand and worried about the stability of their suppliers.  As such, they ramped up production of cotton in India and elsewhere in South Asia, clearly visible on the map. 

When the South eventually was fully blockaded, it was this South Asian source of cotton, as well as additional new production, that kept Continental textile mills in operation and prevented Cotton Diplomacy from succeeding.  In fact, in 1861, re-exports of cotton and wool from Britain to the Continent actually increased. 

Minard also includes a line chart of cotton and wool production and imports over 30 years.  This chart is interesting in its own right, as it shows how the Industrial Revolution and the Cotton Gin dramatically increased the demand for and production of cotton.  Click here or on the picture below to see the graph in a larger size.

Although this map does not show as stark of a comparison as other Minard maps, it still serves to show a clever framwork for cartographic comparison.

This is a post in our continuing “Mondays with Minard series, exhibiting Charles Joseph Minard’s excellent cartographic handiwork.  This map was photographed specifically for use here at Cartographia from the collections of the Library of Congress.  Feel free to reproduce the map in any way you wish, but please cite us as the source. 


Supporting the Folks at Home

Many immigrants, especially those with family in their old homelands, make it a habit to send money to their loved ones to help pay the bills.  This trend isn’t true just for the US–immigrants to most of the world’s richer nations tend to send money home when they can.  As The Economist points out, this money can have a major impact on foreign GDPs.

The map above shows the biggest recipients of these international remittances in 2007.  India is at the top, with $27 billion in foreign currency sent home.  China and Mexico aren’t far behind.  Rich Western European countries also receive a large value of money from overseas, perhaps because their expatriates are more likely to be highly educated than those from poorer countries.  Click here or on the picture above to see the article from The Economist, and a larger map.

Romania is a standout in the top ten, beating every Latin American country except for Mexico.  Bangladesh isn’t among the top ten recipients of international remittances, but the Phillipines is.  And no countries in Africa or the Middle East are on the list either.  Turkey, with its large diaspora in Central Europe, is another notable exception.

The map also includes a chart, on the right, showing that these remittances impact some countries’ GDPs quite significantly.  Tajikistan and Moldova–small countries with weak currencies–collect over 35% of their GDPs from foreign currency mailed home by the diaspora.

[via The Morning News]

Where the Greenies Live

“Green” economics is a major trend these days.  There are environmentally friendly cars, houses, light bulbs, and laundry detergent–all components of a larger green lifestyles.  But as with all trends, living green is more popular in certain places than in others.  Today’s map is drawn from a study that attempts to chart areas with large numbers of people who live environmentally conscious lifestyles.

The map above is taken from “Green Market Geography: The Spatial Clustering of Hybrid Vehicle and LEED Registered Buildings” by Matthew E. Khan and Ryan K. Vaughn, both economists at UCLA.  This map–a distribution of Prius registrations in Los Angeles County, California–is just one of several maps they include in their paper to show the distribution of the green lifestyle across the state.  Here, the darker the green, the more Prius registrations there are in that zip code.  Click here or on the picture above to see a larger version of the map.

The map indicates that the residents who live along the southern California coast–undoubtedly the wealthier, more highly educated demographics–are more likely to own a Prius than those living further inland.  Despite this coastal trend, however, Khan and Vaughn speculate that there is an additional clustering effect–that green-minded individuals are drawn together into communities by other factors:

Small initial differences in exogenous spatial attributes such as proximity to the ocean can have a social multiplier effect. As environmentalists move to a nice community, green businesses such as organic restaurants would be more likely to locate near this community (Waldfogel 2007). This creates a virtuous cycle attracting even more environmentalists to move to the community. As environmentalists cluster in such communities, they vote for public goods/taxes bundles that further re-enforce this process (i.e bike lanes and recycling bins).

Khan and Vaughn developed an environmentalism scale for the state, based on the number of registered members of the California Green Party, and votes on two binding, statewide ballot initiatives focusing on environmental causes.  This analysis was the foundation of the map below:

In this map, as in the map above, the greener the zip code the more environmental friendly it is on the Khan and Vaughn scale.  Click here or on the picture above to see an enlarged version of the map.  Interestingly, whereas Prius distributions are aligned most closely with wealthier areas by the coast, the environmental ratings statewide do not hew closely to this model.  On the contrary, it seems that a green consumer lifestyle does not necessarily collolate with favorable opinions of environmentalism, including registration with the Green Party.  It turns out you can make environmental choices without owning a Prius.

The information for this post came via this excellent article in the Economist. 

Minard’s Map of Port and River Tonnage

Charles Joseph Minard was a master of using simple sizes to indicate relationships.  In this map, as with his famous chart of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, Minard expertly relates the volume of tonnage shipped through European ports and on European rivers to the size of the lines and circles representing them.

Minard developed this map from data on port and river tonnage in the mid 1850s.  The numbers over each circle are the volume of products shipped in thousands of tons.  For this map, Minard includes all ports that carry over 200,000 tons of cargo per year.  For the rivers, each millimeter of thickness represents 100,000 tons of shipping.  Click here or on the picture above to see a bigger map.

The movement of commerce across the continent is presented starkly through the thickness of the rivers and the area of the ports.  Britain, a worldwide commercial leader, has Europe’s two largest ports in London and Liverpool.  Only Constantinople and Marseilles present any challenge to Britain’s remaining ports for volume of tonnage.

Britain, however, has no river shipping listed.  Northwestern Europe–the Netherlands, France, and northwestern Germany–have tremendous shipping along their rivers.  The Elbe and the Rhine account for a majority of this shipping.  With Germany still not unified but with a burgeoning manufacturing sector, all the commercial products had to travel to sea via rivers.  Even today, the Dutch port of Rotterdam handles the world’s highest annual shipping tonnage.

The Russian Empire, with its vast distances and few railroads, made good use of its navigable rivers to transports goods.  Sadly, the area on the map around the mouth of the Volga, in the Caspian Sea, is damaged.  Otherwise, we would also know the volume of goods leaving and entering Russia via Central Asia. 

The Danube, flowing with goods while in Austrian territory, ships virtually none at all through the barely-industrialized Ottoman Empire until it approaches the sea once more.   For an empire so large, the Austrian seaports of Trieste and Venice handle little cargo, representing the Austrian reliance on overland shipping from Central Europe

In France, the Seine itself does not transport a tremendous amount of cargo; but its tributary the Oise carries huge amounts of goods from the manufacturing centers in northern France to the markets of Paris.  Similarly, the Rhone carries little international shipping; most of its cargo begins and ends its journey in France.

This is the third post in our continuing “Mondays with Minard” series, exhibiting Charles Joseph Minard’s excellent cartographic handiwork.  This map was photographed specifically for use here at Cartographia from the collections of the Library of Congress.  Feel free to reproduce the map in any way you wish, but please cite us as the source. The original map is in fairly good quality, but I ran the picture through Photoshop to improve the contrast and make the colors more vibrant for the sake of clarity. 

Betting on Obama

As everyone knows, Barack Obama and John McCain are winding up for a historic campaign to become the next president of the United States.  The election is still months away, but that’s not keeping speculators from betting on the results.  The map above shows how interested parties with real money at stake are predicting the November election. 

Intrade is a “prediction market” that essentially lets you bet on anything.  You can wager on whether the positive results Dr. Yoshiaki Arata’s cold fusion experiment will be replicated successfully; you can put money down that the Incredible Hulk will gross less than $50 million on its opening weekend; and you bet that the Supreme Court will hold the District of Columbia’s anti-handgun law unconstitutional.  All these trades are made with real money, and members who predict correctly receive the money of members who don’t.  Intrade, then, is an excellent way to tap into the “wisdom of crowds.”

Intrade’s most recent success has been bets on the results of the upcoming November presidential election.  These predicted results are illustrated via a simple map, above–with red for Republican states, blue for Democratic states, and gray for states that are too close to call.  Click here or on the picture above to see a larger version of the map.

The current Intrade favorite is Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee.  Betters have him winning Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and making a strong showing in Virginia and Nevada.  McCain does well in this election too, with clear wins in Florida and Missouri, but it wouldn’t be enough to get him to the White House. 

The site updates the map “at least weekly” and allows you to scroll through previous versions.  So far, they closely resemble the map above.  Nevertheless, McCain’s fortunes can change quickly.  Although Obama is trading at over $61 per share, McCain still brings in $34 per share that he will be the eventual election winner. 

Minard’s Map of British Coal Exports

Britain was the world’s leading industrial power for most of the 1800s.  19th Century industrial production relied on coal–it powered factories, heated homes, and was essential for producing steel–and as an industrial power Britain relied on coal to make it great.  Most British coal was used domestically, but some was exported to support burgeoning industrial needs in other parts of the world.  Charles Joseph Minard, the well-regarded economic cartographer, produced this excellent map of British coal exports for the year 1864. 

As with most of Minard’s works, this map relates the thickness of each export line to the amount of coal it represents.  Here, each millimeter of thickness represents 20,000 tons of coal.  The numbers written over or beside the lines represent the total number of tons of coal, in thousands.  Click here or on the picture above to see the full map.  Minard also included a fascinating graph of the eventual uses of all British-mined coal in the upper right.  More on that graph later.

The map clearly demonstrates that the majority of British coal exports were destined for use in Western Europe–in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the German states, and Scandinavia.  A smaller but still significant amount was exported to Russia (via both the Baltic and Black Seas) and the Ottoman Empire.

The coal that was not shipped to Europe was distributed across the remaining five populated continents, but not evenly: Australia and Africa (with the exception of British-controlled Egypt) imported hardly any coal at all, whereas China and India imported much more.  South America also imported a significant amount of British coal–much of it to Brazil, Chile, or Peru.  Canada and the United States imported a relatively small amount–the former possibly due to its lower population, and the latter probably due to large domestic coal production. 

The map show some interesting details about international trade during the mid 1860s.  Malta, Singapore, and especially Cuba imported large amounts of coal given their relative size and levels of industrialization.  Malta and Singapore, at least, were British colonies;  but Cuba was a Spanish possession, showing how much the dwindling Spanish Empire had come to rely on foreign industry to sustain itself. 

Though St. Petersburg was the Russian capital at the time, the majority of Russian coal imports from the Baltic Sea were instead destined for the city of Kronstadt, located on an island off the coast of St. Petersburg.  Kronstadt was the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet, and its steam-powered battlecruisers consumed coal at a tremendous rate. 

Prussia’s growing power in Germany is shown by the amount of coal it imported from the Baltic, peeling off into multiple ports.  But Minard also indicates that a rather large amount of coal was still being imported to the German North Sea ports and destined for the “Villes Anseatiques”–the cities of the old Hanseatic League, a Renaissance-era trading guild that had become defunct in all but name in the 1600s.  Interestingly, however, the German cities of Lubeck, Hamburg, and Bremen maintained the pretenses of the League until 1862–only two years before the data for this map was gathered.  It is unclear whether Minard refers to the imports of the last three cities, or of a collection of older member cities.  At the very least, the use of this nomenclature shows the continuing decentralization of Germany, which would not change until German unification under Prussia at the beginning of the next decade.

Finally, the map also shows the continuing economic importance of the Caribbean islands.  More coal was imported by those small specks of land than by the rest of North America combined. 

Minard also included an interesting chart in the upper right-hand corner of the map, showing the amount of British coal produced for each year between 1850 and 1864, and how it was used.  Click here or on the picture below to see a close-up of the chart.  The graph shows the tremendous changes in coal production over only a decade and a half–an increase of nearly 100% from just over 50 million to nearly 95 million tons.  Of this, less than 10% was ever exported–meaning that the British domestic market was consuming nine times as much coal as is shown as exported in the main map. 

The major uses of British coal, according to the chart, are: the production of iron (“Fer”) and cast iron (“Fonte”), gas lighting (“Eclairage au gas”), steam engines in ships and trains (“Navires a Vapeur et Chemins de Fer”), and domestic fireplaces (“Foyers Domestiques”).  A large amount of this production was also specifically slated for use in London, showing how that city was the major center of British industry. 

This is the second post in our continuing “Mondays with Minard” series, exhibiting Charles Joseph Minard’s excellent cartographic handiwork.  This map was photographed specifically for use here at Cartographia from the collections of the Library of Congress.  Feel free to reproduce the map in any way you wish, but please cite us as the source. The original map is in fairly good quality, but I ran the picture through Photoshop to improve the contrast and make the colors more vibrant for the sake of clarity. 

The Mortgage Crisis in Houston

Houston, like many other large American cities, has suffered from the ongoing mortgage crisis affecting the economy.  Homes have been seized, families have been displaced, and lending firms have been burdened with trying to sell thousands of overpriced homes in a buyers’ market.  To demonstrate the impact of this situation on Houston, the Houston Chronicle developed the map above to show the number of homes in all Houston neighborhoods where foreclosures have taken place.

As previously mentioned, the US economy has been undergoing significant strain from homeowners defaulting on their mortgage payments due to increasing rates.  This scenario is affecting different parts of the country to varying degrees.  To demonstrate the affect on Houston, the Houston Chronicle leveraged publicly available data to build the map above showing the number of foreclosed homes across the city.  Click here or on the picture above to see the full interactive map.

The map uses two designators to show the number of foreclosures at a glance.  First, each affected neighborhood is represented by a circle.  The darker the circle, the greater the number of foreclosures in that neighborhood.  And second, each circle is shaded with a different color.  The darker the color, the greater the number of foreclosures in the zip code.  Click on any circle, and a window pops up showing the number of foreclosures in communities across that zip code.

A quick glance at the map shows that there are more foreclosures beyond the Houston freeway loop than within it; and that West and North Houston have been affected particularly severely.  Central Houston–where more middle-class neighborhoods prevail–has been affected but not to the degree of the outer neighborhoods.  The 77449 zip code, near Katy, Texas, has the highest number of foreclosures in the entire Houston metropolitan area, with multiple foreclosures in several communities.

The ongoing mortgage crisis is continuing to affect the national economy, with recent news reports showing the price of homes is falling nationwide.   The New York Times has also produced this excellent interactive map showing the change in housing prices across 19 other rmajor cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago.  Houston is just one affected city, but this map provides a detailed window into the effects of the crisis across its metropolitan area.

Running on Fumes

With the double-whammy of spiking gas prices and Memorial Day holiday trips, America is facing a “perfect storm” of fuel costs.  However, gas prices vary in different parts of the country depending on a variety of factors such as proximity to refining facilities and state-level gas taxes.  To show these fluctuations, the folks over at have developed a detailed temperature map of gas price averages by county.

The map of U.S. gas prices crosses the spectrum of colors, with green representing the lowest gas prices (<$3.68/gallon) and red representing the highest (>$4.14/gallon).  Wyoming and Arizona are among the cheapest places to buy gas; and California, Michigan, and Connecticut are among the most expensive.  The Great Plains and the Gulf Coast have moderate to less-expensive gas prices, whereas the Midwest and Upstate New York suffer from higher prices.

Click here or on the picture above to see the full U.S. gas price temperature map.  And click here to see a Canadian gas price temperature map from the same people.

Information discovered via Jalopnik.

The United States of Wal-Mart

Since it was founded in 1962, Wal-Mart has grown to be one of the most powerful corporations operating today.  The chain controls approximately 20 percent of the entire American retail business.  It has stores in the United States as well as in Mexico and Japan, and also operates in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and China.  Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the world, and made nearly $380 billion in revenues last year.  Driving across the country, it’s hard to miss the Wal-Mart Supercenters in each passing major town, and no matter how many you see, there are always cars in the parking lots.

The map above is from a paper entitled The Diffusion of Wal-Mart and Economies of Density, written by the University of Minnesota professor Thomas J. Holmes, on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  For each year since 1962, Holmes plotted the locations of all new and existing Wal-Mart stores.  Click here or on the map above to see a larger version of the 1979 snapshot, showing Wal-Mart’s stores across the Mississippi Valley and the southern Great Plains.

Holmes’ paper uses Wal-Mart to explore so-called economies of density–the benefits to a corporation of opening a large number of stores close together.  Although these stores serve overlapping areas and sometimes compete for the same customers, they also benefit from centrally located distribution centers.  Moreover, Wal-Mart uses the theories of economies of density to determine the locations of its new stores:

If economies of density were not important, Wal-Mart would go to the highest quality sites first and work its way down over time.  The highest quality sites wouldn’t necessarily be bunched together, so initial Wal-Mart stores would be scattered in different places.  But when economies of density matter, Wal-Mart might chose lower quality sites that are closer to its existing network, keeping the stores bunched together, putting off the higher quality sites until later when it can expand out to them.

As the years passed, Wal-Mart moved out of its core territory in and around Arkansas, and expanded nationwide.  Professor Holmes created a time series map showing the growth of Wal-Mart nationwide, expanding into California, Appalachia, the Midwest, and the Northeast.  Red dots represent new stores opened in each year, and blue dots represent existing stores:

Wal-Mart’s incredible growth has engendered a great deal of criticism.  Some of that critical sentiment has been captured through the wonder of YouTube commenting:

“maybe we should change the name of our country to wal-mart”

“Oh my GOD, its a wal-mart plague that will swallow us all”

“looks a lot like…. cancer.”

The time series map, simply through blue and red dots, demonstrates the scale of Wal-Mart’s operations, and engenders colorful opinions from those who see it.

Mapping the Mortgage Crisis

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, made a speech on May 5 at Columbia Business School where he laid out some of the repercussions of the mortgage crisis affecting the US economy.  A large portion of his speech focused on the geographic distribution of foreclosures and other components of the crisis, including housing prices.  To quote Bernanke:

On the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words, Federal Reserve staff, using detailed, county-by-county information on mortgage performance, have developed a series of “heat maps,” which summarize the incidence of serious mortgage delinquencies across the nation as well as some of the key drivers of loan performance.  As the examples will make clear, the figures (with the exception of one map depicting house price changes) use warmer colors–orange and red–to show counties for which the factor being considered has a higher value or change.  Lower values or changes (again, with the exception of that one map) are indicated by shades of green.  Yellow indicates areas where the factor under consideration has a moderate value or change.

Bernanke included seven maps with his presentation: Mortgage Delinquency Levels by County for 4th Quarter 2004; Mortgage Delinquency Levels by County for 4thQuarter 2007; Change in Mortgage Delinquency by County Q4 2004-Q4 2007; Unemployment Rate Change by County (2004-2007); Change in House Price Index by County  2004-2007; Non-Owner Occupied Home Purchases by County 2005-2006; and Percentage of Home Loans with Piggybacks by County 2005-2006.  As Bernanke mentioned, each map uses colors to demonstrate the lowest through highest quintiles of the data.

Even a brief glance at the maps indicates what anecdotal evidence has already confirmed–the impact of the mortgage crisis is being felt differently in different parts of the country.  The Southwest has suffered severe increases in foreclosure rates and decreases in housing prices.  Every county in both Nevada and California has seen its average home prices drop to 2006 levels or below.  Similarly, the Midwest–particularly Michigan–has also suffered, as has Florida, and parts of New England.

Other states have different problems.  The 2004 foreclosure rate map indicates that Southern states like Mississippi and South Carolina were were already suffering from disproportionately high foreclosure rates, and that those rates have not diminished (though they have also not increased).  Some counties in Indiana that already suffered high foreclosure rates, however, have seen their rates increase dramatically.

In the Thursday edition of the Economist, this article also referenced Bernanke’s mortgage maps, point out a significant limitation in the data:

Mr Bernanke’s maps use figures from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO)…OFHEO’s figures include only houses financed by mortgages backed by the government-sponsored giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They leave out the top and bottom of the market—where prices rose fastest during the bubble and where the mortgage mess was most severe. Thus OFHEO’s figures probably understate the scale of the housing mess.

The Economist helpfully provides this additional chart of housing prices, comparing the OFHEO numbers against more “representative” figures that are indeed worse.  The article above also recreates one of Bernanke’s maps in a design and color scheme that is easier to read.

All seven of Bernanke’s Federal Reserve maps are presented in a slideshow at the bottom of this page.  Additionally, the Fed has provided a breakdown of all the counties by quintile here

I found the Fed data for this post via Calculated Risk.  And thanks again to Alex for another recommendation!

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