Economics Archives

March 19, 2008

Go Forth and Stimulate the Economy

0803Money.jpgThe IRS plans to start the first round of economic stimulus payments on May 2. All payments will occur automatically according to the last two digits of Social Security numbers of people who file their tax returns. Those who provide direct deposit information will have their payments deposited automatically. Everyone else will receive a check in the mail, albeit at a slower pace.

If you're dying of curiosity, the IRS has created an Economic Stimulus Payment Calculator to help you estimate the size of your new flat screen TV. There is also a payment schedule on the site.

IRS Announces Economic Stimulus Payment Schedules, Provides Online Payment Calculator

Name that group... from the Flickr page of DRB62

December 11, 2007

Food Economics


As we pointed out in The World Almanac 2008, U.S. ethanol production in 2007 has been at record levels—not surprising, considering the ever-higher demand. An interesting cover story in The Economist last week shed a different light on ethanol production, in the context of food prices, which are rising for the first time in 30 years. (The Economist article is, of course, indexing the cost of food in terms of real dollars.) The article theorizes that the U.S.'s increased diversion of corn to ethanol production—and the 200-odd subsidies that support it—is working in tandem with the growing demand for meat worldwide to push food prices higher.

Definitely an interesting read, but if you're short on time, at least check out a few of The Economist's usual somewhat-dry-but-very-informative charts on the subject.

The End of Cheap Food

Flickr photo by r-z

November 13, 2007

The World Almanac 2008: At a Glance

World Almanac 2008 StacksYes, the day that you (and we) have been waiting for is here: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008 is officially on sale. If you pre-ordered, you've probably got a copy already; if not, you should be able to stroll into the bookstore of your choice and pick one up today.

We'll be using this blog to share (and expand on) parts of this edition throughout the year. Today, though, I'll just leave you with an assortment of facts from The World at a Glance, one of our new quick-reference features:

Nation most dependent on nuclear energy: France, 78.1% of electricity is nuclear-generated
World's most popular tourist destination: France, 79.1 million arrivals in 2006
Most popular luxury car color in the U.S.: Black, 22% of 2006 model year cars
Most popular light truck color in the U.S.: White, 25% of 2006 model year trucks
Nation hosting the most refugees: Pakistan, 2.2 million, mostly from Afghanistan, in 2006
Top country for U.S. foreign adoptions: China, 6,520 in 2006
Fastest roller coaster in the world: Kingda Ka, 128 mph (Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ)
Busiest airport outside of the U.S., by passenger traffic: Heathrow Airport (London, UK), 67.5 million passengers in 2006
Most-visited shopping website: eBay, 79.8 million visitors in July 2007 alone

California's gross domestic product in 2006 was $1.73 trillion. If it was its own country, it would have the 10th largest economy in the world, smaller than Russia's but larger than Brazil's.
If all circulating U.S. dollars and coins were equally distributed among the nation's population, everyone would receive $2,688.

Total fat consumption per capita in the U.S. was 37.7 pounds in 1910. It climbed to a whopping 85.5 pounds by 2005.
China's annual energy consumption grew 249% in the past 15 years, from 27 quadrillion Btu in 1990 to 67 quadrillion Btu in 2005.
The amount Americans spent annually on casino gambling ballooned 610%, from $11.5 billion in 1990 to $81.6 billion in 2006.
The number of violent crimes in the U.S. declined from 1.6 million in 1997 to 1.4 million in 2006, a drop of 13.3%.

Previously: The World at a Glance: Number Ones, Surprising Facts, and Changing Times

Photo: Vincent G. Spadafora

October 25, 2007

The American Sweet Tooth

To get you in the right frame of mind for next week's candy gorge-a-thon, otherwise known as Halloween (or maybe to snap you out of it), here are a few quick graphs of candy production and consumption trends in the U.S.—data courtesy of the Census Bureau, and graph technology via Swivel.

First up: per capita consumption of confectionery products (chocolate and non-chocolate) from 2001 to 2006. There aren't any truly dramatic changes happening here, but still—despite Atkins, Sugar Busters, and every other voice telling us to cut back on sugar consumption, our consumption of candy was up 2 pounds per person in 2006, compared with 2001.

Per capita consumption (lbs and $) of confectionery products, 2001-2006

Continue reading "The American Sweet Tooth" »

September 26, 2007

New Stats on GDP by Metropolitan Area

0709gdpma.gifThe Bureau of Economic Analysis has released an interesting prototype report that breaks down the contribution of 363 metropolitan areas, including specific industries in those areas, to total annual U.S. GDP from 2001 through 2005. The map to the right shows the areas with the largest percent change between 2004 and 2005 with blue representing the most change and orange the least. Here are some highlights I calculated from the report:
The five areas accounting for the highest percentage of national GDP:
  1. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
  2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
  3. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI
  4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  5. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
  • The fastest growing area was Palm Coast, FL, which experienced a 163.8% growth from 2001 to 2005; nearly triple that of Corvallis, OR, the second fastest-growing area.
  • Of the top 50 largest metropolitan areas by GDP, Las Vegas-Paradise, NV experienced the largest growth, 31.2%, with its largest increase, 10%, between 2003 and 2004.
  • The biggest loss of GDP was experienced in Lafayette, LA (10.7% loss). It took its biggest hit in 2002 when the GDP dropped 11.3% because of the effects of tropical storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili on the oil and fishing industries.

If the BEA gets positive feedback about the report, they're hoping to have 2006 estimates available next Fall.

BEA Introduces New Measures of the Metropolitan Economy

May 21, 2007

The [Insert Your Name Here] Almanac

personal-almanac.jpgHere at World Almanac HQ, we spend most of our days compiling facts and statistics about large populations in the U.S. and around the world. But there are people out there who focus on much smaller populations... like, say, a population of one. Check out Feltron's 2006 Annual Report for an entertaining look at a year in the life of one man, rendered exclusively in charts and tables. Some of the highlights:
  • Plants killed
  • Museum visits
  • Date first gray hair discovered
  • Air miles traveled
  • Ratio of social:solo dinners
  • Genre distribution of books read

Also worth a look: Craig Robinson's Personal Pies. Not as comprehensive as Feltron's report, but illuminating nonetheless.

Feltron's 2006 Annual Report
Personal Pies

April 10, 2007

Sometimes, Change is Good

Slots.jpgApparently gamblers at the Sands Casino in Atlantic City, NJ didn’t just lose their money at the slot machines. A lot was lost underneath them too. After the casino closed on Nov. 11, 2006, movers collected $17,193.34 in tokens and loose change (and loose bills) from underneath 2,350 slot machines. The casino had been open for 26 years and some of the money had to be pried out of the floor. The casino’s new owners, Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., get to keep whatever is left after the New Jersey government takes 8% in taxes.

In recent years, most casinos have ditched the bucket and now use coinless slot machines that track winnings with paper tickets and barcodes. The Sands is slated to be demolished later this year and replaced with a new casino.

One Last Jackpot for Casino (AP)

The Money Guy from TangoPango's Flickr photo stream

April 4, 2007

The Rollercoaster of Home Prices

No, seriously, it's a rollercoaster. A virtual one, but a rollercoaster nonetheless, showing changes in U.S. home prices, adjusted for inflation, from 1890 to 2007. I haven't double-checked the data, but it's such a cool idea, we'll share it anyway.

Someone please turn this into a webapp... I want to chart every piece of data in the World Almanac as a rollercoaster.

From magnetbox via kottke.

February 2, 2007

The World at a Glance: Changing Times

314854035_5617436462_m.jpgWe're all going full steam ahead on The World Almanac for Kids 2008, so apologies for the late (and light) posting today. To tide you over, here's another "World at a Glance" installment, this time a quick look at some notable changes in agriculture, health, population, and other areas in recent decades. Any other noteworthy trends we missed? Let us know in the comments.

1900-2000: The top country of origin for foreign-born U.S. residents shifted from Germany (26% of the foreign-born population in 1900) to Italy (13% in 1960) to Mexico (30% in 2000).

1940-2005: The total number of U.S. farms fell more than 66%, from 6.4 million to 2.10 million.

1960-2005: Americans’ average savings, as a percent of their disposable income, fell from 7.3% to –0.4%.

1960-2002: The percentage of U.S. adults who were clinically overweight climbed from 45% to 65%, and the number of all U.S. adults considered clinically obese rose from 13% to 31%.

1980-2005: Average annual tuition and fees for a 4-year private college or university were 10 times higher in 2005 than in 1980, rising from $1,809 to $18,838.

1980-2005: The percentage of high school seniors who had at least one heavy drinking episode in the previous two weeks fell from 41% to 28%.

1990-2005: The median price for an existing single family home in the U.S. climbed 138%, from $92,000 to $219,000.

1990-2004: The rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. slowed dramatically: emissions increased by an annual average of 1.7% from 1990 to 2000, but only 0.4% annually from 2000 to 2004.

2006-2050: The population of China, the most populous nation in 2006, will climb from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion in 2050, but India will surpass China by 2030, and is projected to top the list in 2050 with 1.8 billion people.

February 1, 2007

"The World as You've Never Seen it Before"

That's the tag line for Worldmapper, a novel approach to visualizing global data, and a collaborative project of a group of cartographers, social scientists, and other experts at the University of Michigan and the University of Sheffield. From a recent article on The Daily Telegraph website:
"You can say it, you can prove it, you can tabulate it, but it is only when you show it that it hits home," said Prof Danny Dorling, of the University of Sheffield, one of the developers of Worldmapper, a collection of maps — cartograms — that rescale the size of territories in proportion to the value being represented.

On the maps of public health spending, research expenditure and wealth, Africa appears tiny. But in those that show global malaria cases and the deaths due to drought, Africa appears enormous.

You'll find a year's worth of maps on the site, spanning categories from income and housing to pollution and "destruction." Each map is also accompanied by a brief summary of the topic, plus links to labeled territory and population maps, data sheets in Excel or Opendoc formats, and even a downloadable PDF poster showcasing the map and some of its key data points.

Choose a topic, and you're bound to find something interesting. I was struck by two maps, which are as good a place to start as any:

map_childlabor.jpgChild Labor (at left): "Nine of the ten territories with the highest proportions of child labourers are in Africa. . . . The map shows that most child labour occurs in African and Southern Asian territories. India has the highest number of child labourers, twice as many as China where the second highest population of child labourers lives."

map_toyimports.jpgToy Imports (at right): "Most imports of toys (US$ net) are to the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. Toys are fun but not necessities. Thus toy imports give an indication of disposable incomes. The lowest imports of toys (US$ net) per person are to territories in Africa and also Tajikistan (in the Middle East)."

Link: Worldmapper

January 23, 2007

Put Another President in Your Pocket

WashingtonCoin.jpg Third time's a charm? The U.S. Mint is set to give the $1 coin another go, but this time they’re using the power of dead presidents. Starting with Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison in 2007, the Mint will release four presidents each year, in the order in which they served—much like the state quarters, which were released in the order in which states joined the union. If the next president in line is still living, however (read: Jimmy Carter in 2016), the program will “pause.”

The coins will be similar in shape and color to the Sacagawea dollar already in circulation. The Statue of Liberty will be on the back, and the phrases “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” and the mint mark will be on the side. Laws have also been passed to encourage more widespread use of the coins.

Washington will be unveiled tomorrow in Houston and Chicago. He’ll be heading into circulation Feb. 15. Adams will follow in May. Already a presidential dollar disciple looking for a new use for those paper bills? Buy them in sheets for wallpaper at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing store.

Presidential $1 Coin Program (U.S. Mint)

December 28, 2006

The World at a Glance: Number Ones

1_3.jpgEven though The World Almanac is the best-selling American reference book of all time, there are still people out there who don't quite know what, exactly, you can find in it. So in the 2007 edition, we added a new feature page that summarizes some of the diverse, interesting facts you can find throughout the book, including some surprising facts, milestone birthdays for 2007, and important trends in the U.S. and around the world. For today, however, we'll keep the focus on our "Number Ones" — the biggest, the best, the worst, and the most popular in just a few of the dozens of different subject areas contained in the book.

Most popular car color in the U.S. .......... silver, more than 20% of new cars
Highest-rated U.S. television show, 2005-06 .......... American Idol, Tuesday night
Top-spending U.S. advertiser in 2005 .......... Procter & Gamble, $4.61 bil
Most prescribed class of drug in the U.S. .......... antidepressants, prescribed 81.2 mil times in 2004
Most popular dog breed in U.S. .......... Labrador retriever, 137,867 new dogs registered in 2005
Leading cause of death in U.S. .......... heart disease, 685,089 deaths (28%) in 2003
Nation with the most vacation days per year .......... Italy, average of 42 days per person
Largest world city .......... Tokyo, 2005 population 35.2 mil
Largest army, by active-duty troop strength .......... China, 2.3 million
Nation hosting the most refugees .......... Pakistan, with 1.1 mil in 2005
Most densely populated U.S. state .......... New Jersey, 1,135 persons per sq. mi.
Most sparsely populated nation .......... Mongolia, 4.7 persons per sq. mi.
Nation with most water per capita .......... Iceland, 582,191.8 cubic meters (U.S. has 10,333)
Developed nations with highest federal tax rate .......... Belgium and Germany, 42%
Nation with highest per capita GDP .......... Luxembourg, $55,600
Highest temperature recorded on Earth .......... 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, 9/13/22
Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. .......... Galveston Hurricane, Sept. 8, 1900; up to 12,000 killed
Most career saves (baseball) .......... Trevor Hoffman, 482 through 2006

[P.S.: Know a trivia buff who might love this list? Want to share it with the world? This would be a perfect time to try some of our sharing and social-networking tools. Click "Email this" to send this entry on to a friend, or "Add this" to bookmark or share it with dozens of different online services.]

Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream (CC)

December 5, 2006

Dollars and Sense


In American currency the shape of things to come (not to mention the size and texture) may soon be unfamiliar. Last week, federal District Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the Treasury Department had to find a way to design and distribute currency with features enabling a person without sight to tell the bills apart. Currently, bills in all U.S. denominations are exactly the same size and use the same kind of paper, so there is no tactile way to identify the denomination. The issue is far from settled, and advocacy groups for the vision-impaired are not in agreement on whether to applaud or criticize the ruling, with one group calling the effort "dangerously misguided."

The U.S. Treasury has been introducing a series of redesigned banknotes incrementally since 2004. But the new currency features have more to do with security measures and design than accessiblity to the vision-impaired. Check out the Treasury's interactive notes for an up close look at currency features—there's more on the face of a bill than meets the eye.

About Economics

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Economics category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

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