Tag Archives: Visualizations

Following are visualizations of data. Many are interactive and created using Tableau Public. In some cases I’ve recorded myself using the visualization to tell a story, and all you have to do is watch.

Kansas school fund balances on the rise

SchoolAs the Kansas Supreme Court considers ordering more school spending, and as school spending boosters continue their never-ending mantra that school spending has been slashed, an inconvenient fact remains constant: Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow, although it leveled off in the most recent year for which there is data.

In 2011, the Kansas Policy Institute commented on these funds and the rising balances: “We continue to hear about schools choosing to cut classroom spending, but many districts are not spending all of their state and local tax income. These funds operate much like personal checking accounts; the unencumbered balances only increase when income is greater than spending. It will be interesting to see how Kansas school districts use the new authority they have which makes it easier to spend down these balances.”

School district officials contend that school districts need to maintain fund balances for cash management purposes. That’s true, but it doesn’t explain why the fund balances have risen — and risen rapidly — year after year.

I’ve gathered data about unspent Kansas school funds and presented it as an interactive visualization. Explore the data yourself by using the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Data is from Kansas State Department of Education. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Wichita and peer GDP growth

Compared to its peers, the government sector in Wichita is growing fairly quickly, but the private sector is growing slowly.

One of the benchmarks used by Visioneering Wichita to gauge the growth of the Wichita-area economy may not be the best measure, and its interpretation requires caution.

The measure is per-capita personal income. Its presentation may be seen here. Some of the issues with per capita measures are explained by Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute:

Per-capita income is a bad measurement because it rewards cities that are losing people due to domestic migration and punishes those who are gaining.

Even without the per-capita issue, personal income is not a clean measure. Personal income can increase because federal transfer payments grew, employers had to spend more to provide health care benefits, and other items that have nothing to do with measuring relative economic growth.

Better measurements would be private sector jobs, private sector GDP and private sector wage and salary disbursements. Unless the point of Visioneering is to grow government, the measurements should only be of private sector elements.

Last year KPI explained how the mathematics of per-capita measures can produce results that seem paradoxical. The current edition of Rich States, Poor States has a section devoted to these problems. Here’s an explanation of a scenario that requires caution to interpret:

Further, the residents of a state can be better off even if that state’s per-capita or median income decreases. If, for example, 50,000 low income agriculture workers move into Texas, those workers’ incomes almost surely rise (or else they would not have moved there). The residents and business owners in Texas who benefit from their labor services are better off, and the final result is that no one is worse off. But the per-capita income in Texas may actually go down if the low income agricultural workers earn less than the state’s average wage.

To help better understand economic growth in Wichita and its peers, I’ve gathered gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the Wichita metropolitan area and the peer metropolitan areas Visioneering has selected. GDP is value of all the finished products and services produced, and is the most comprehensive measure of economic activity. I’ve also looked at private sector GDP and government GDP.

wichita-gdp-government-sector-visioneering-2013-06-06

To the left, we see growth in GDP for the government sector. (Click for a larger version.) This data is indexed, so that each area starts at the same relative level and we can compare the relative growth over a period of years. Wichita, the brown line, is not far from the top, meaning that value produced in government jobs has grown faster than in most of our peers.

wichita-gdp-private-sector-visioneering-2013-06-06

Next, is a chart of growth in GDP for the private sector. (Click for a larger version.) It is here that we see how poorly the Wichita-area economy has performed. The private sector is growing very slowly in Wichita, compared to our peers.

When we couple slow growth of the private sector with faster growth of government, we’re setting the stage for even slower growth of the type of jobs that produce prosperity. Those are, of course, private sector jobs.

When we compare the per-capita figures with the absolute figures, we see that while Wichita performs poorly on a per-capita basis, it performs even worse on an absolute basis.

Explore the data yourself by using the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Use Ctrl+Click to highlight metropolitan areas for comparison. Data is from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Wichita personal income growth benchmark

When Visioneering Wichita recently presented its annual report to the Wichita City Council, Wichita City Council members received benchmark documents. Whether the mayor and council members actually looked at and considered these measurements is unknown.

We do know that Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, as memorialized in the official meeting minutes, praised Visioneering: “Mayor Brewer stated this is one of the smartest moves that the City of Wichita has done because it was the primary catalyst that pulled the public and the private together and laid out a vision for our City.”

Other council members also expressed enthusiastic approval for Visioneering.

As shown in Wichita job growth and Visioneering peers, the benchmark data for Wichita as compared to its peer cities shows poor relative performance of the Wichita economy. That article looked at job growth, which is one of the areas Visioneering is benchmarking.

Another area Visioneering benchmarks is per capita income. The chart provided by Visioneering is difficult to read and recognize emerging trends. I’ve prepared an interactive visualization of Wichita and the peer areas that Visioneering uses.

Wichita and peer per capita income, 1969 to 1989

To the left is a chart of Wichita and peer personal income per capita, from 1969 to 1989. (Click for a larger version.) During this time period, Wichita compares well to the peer metropolitan areas that Visioneering uses.

Wichita and peer per capita income, 1990 to 2011

To the left is a chart of of the same data, but from 1990 to 2011. (Click for a larger version.) It’s during this stretch that Wichita starts to fall behind its peers in per capita income, until finally Wichita ranks last in this measure, as it also does in job growth.

Soon Visioneering will make a presentation to members of the Sedgwick County Commission. Perhaps commissioners will ask a few questions about these benchmarks. If I were a commissioner, I might ask these questions:

Is Visioneering satisfied with the performance of Wichita, as measured by these benchmarks?

Is Wichita’s trend in these benchmarks moving in the right direction, or is Wichita falling farther behind?

Are these the correct benchmarks we should be using?

Is it possible that Visioneering is in fact making the Wichita economy better than it would be without Visioneering?

Does Visioneering need additional resources to fulfill its mission?

Visioneering News, captured June 5, 2013

On the Visioneering website, why are no future events listed? Are none planned?

On the Visioneering website, under the “News” section, is it true that there has been no news to post since August 2011 or September 2012 (there are two streams of news)?

Citizens might also wonder why no members of the Wichita City Council asked any questions like these.

Explore the data yourself by using the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Use Ctrl+Click to highlight metropolitan areas for comparison. Data is from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Wichita job growth and Visioneering peers

Wichita has set ambitious goals in job growth, but it doesn’t seem that the Visioneering program has produced results. But apparently Wichita government officials are satisfied.

In 2004 Wichita leaders created Visioneering Wichita. The self-described goals of Visioneering are “To provide citizen input in developing our future, to facilitate communications so reality and perceptions are aligned, and to create a strategic plan that ensures a quality of life and encourages our young people to live, learn, work and play in our regional community.”

One of the benchmarks of Visioneering is “Exceed the highest of the annual percentage job growth rate of the U.S., Omaha, Tulsa, Kansas City and Oklahoma City.”

In May, Suzie Ahlstrand of the Wichita Chamber of Commerce presented Wichita City Council members with the benchmark documents, but didn’t elaborate on these in her presentation.

I can understand her reluctance to focus on these numbers. They’re not good.

We don’t know what the Wichita economy would look like in the absence of Visioneering. There’s no way to rewind and watch what would have happened had Visioneering not been created.

What we do know, however, is that the Wichita-area economy is not performing well. Consider job growth, since that is the first of Visioneering’s benchmarks. The chart Visioneering presented to council members is available here. It’s a difficult chart to read, and doesn’t lend to ready comparison of how Wichita is doing compared to our peers.

Following are charts I created from similar data. These charts are different from Visioneering’s in that they show the cumulative change in job growth from a starting point. My data goes back to 2001, and since the visualization is interactive, you may adjust the range of years.

Here is a static chart of job growth, considering all jobs. (Click for a larger version.)

Wichita and Peer Job Growth, Total Employment

Here is a static chart of job growth, this time considering only government jobs. (Click for a larger version.)

Wichita and Peer Job Growth, Government Employment

Can we be satisfied with this performance? Considering all jobs types, Wichita is in last place. There are those who might take comfort that when including government jobs, Wichita does better. But as growth in the government sector outpaces growth in the private sector, Wichita becomes less prosperous than if we were creating private sector jobs.

In the light of this, consider the reaction of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, as presented in the official minutes: “Mayor Brewer stated this is one of the smartest moves that the City of Wichita has done because it was the primary catalyst that pulled the public and the private together and laid out a vision for our City.”

Other council members also expressed enthusiastic approval for Visioneering. (For coverage of all council members’ reactions, see Wichita city council reacts to Visioneering presentation.)

We need to ask, however, these questions: First, were the mayor and council members aware of these job creation numbers? Second, if they were aware, are they satisfied with this performance?

Explore the data yourself by using the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Use Ctrl+Click to highlight metropolitan areas for comparison. Data is from Bureau of Economic Analysis by way of U.S. Department of Labor. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Entrepreneurial activity, Kansas vs. other states

Entrepreneurship, EntrepreneurEntrepreneurship is important for a growing and dynamic economy. The performance of Kansas in entrepreneurial activity is not high, compared to other states.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation prepares the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. According to the Foundation, “The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity improves over other possible measures of entrepreneurship because of its timeliness, dynamic nature, inclusion of all types of business activity, exclusion of ‘casual’ businesses, and information on owner demographics.”

The following interactive visualization presents KIEA data. You may use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better, as this is a large visualization. Use Ctrl+Click to add or remove states for comparison. Data is from Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Kansas government spending, a visualization

Here is an interactive visualization of Kansas state government spending. Data is presented for both the general fund and total spending, and also in actual dollars and constant dollars, adjusted for inflation. Data is also presented as total spending, and as per person spending.

You may use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Data is from Kansas Fiscal Facts adjusted with data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Personal income growth in the states

As Kansas debates whether to move forward with a new vision, especially in tax policy, we should examine how we have fared under the policies of recent decades.

The visualization below starts in 1994, the year Bill Graves was elected governor. That started a 16 year period of governance by moderate Republicans and Democrats, a period now promoted as a golden area of common sense government that has led to prosperity in Kansas.

But in the visualization below, where does Kansas rank in relation to some of our surrounding states? The answer is: Not well.

To see how your state compares with others in personal income growth, use the interactive visualization below. Click the check boxes to add or remove states. Use the slider to adjust the range of years. Click on state names in the legend below the chart to highlight one or more states’ data (Ctrl+click highlights more than one state.)

You may use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Data is from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Spending and taxing in the states, Kansas and Texas in particular

Taxes flowing to the capitol

In the current policy debate in Kansas, we often compare our state with Texas. The prevailing themes sounded by Democrats and other spenders include that because Texas has no income tax, its other taxes (sales and property) are higher. We also hear that Texas is “atop a sea of oil” from which the state collects a gusher of tax revenue.

But what are the facts? Regarding taxation: In 2011 Kansas state government collected $2,378 in taxes for each person. Texas collected $1,682. We see that Texas collects far less tax per person than does Kansas. Texas may have higher sales or property taxes than Kansas, but the total tax burden in Texas is lower.

Spending follows the same pattern. In 2011 Kansas state government spent $5,115 per person in total, with $1,974 in general fund spending and $130 in bond spending. For Texas the total was $3,718 spent per person in total, with $1,654 in general fund spending and $50 in bond spending.

The lower level of spending means Texas has a less burdensome state government, which allows more money to remain in the productive private sector. In Kansas, we spend more on government.

The “sea of oil” and bountiful severance tax revenue: In 2011 Kansas, which has a severance tax of its own, collected $42.54 in this form of tax for each person. How much did Texas collect from its severance tax? $104.29 per person. The difference between the two — $61.75 per person per year — is only a small portion of the difference between Kansas and Texas taxation.

To see how your state compares with others in spending, use the interactive visualization below. To use the visualization, click the check boxes to add or remove states and years from the chart. Use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window. Data is from National Association of State Budget Officers and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.


(alternate link to the above table)


(alternate link to the above table)

Wichita economic growth, compared

Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition

How does economic growth in Wichita compare to the state and nation? Use the interactive visualization below, or click here to view in a window by itself.

This interactive visualization presents the GDP (gross domestic product) produced by the private sector and the government sector, for three different geographies. I use the Wichita metropolitan statistical area, as that data available is from the Bureau of Economic Statistics. I present the data indexed with 2001 values set to 100. This lets us see the relative growth for each data series. Some data is available through 2011, but some only through 2010.

Here are some things you can notice by using the checkboxes to turn on and off various data series, or by clicking on the color legends to highlight a series:

For the Wichita MSA, government has grown more rapidly than the private sector.

The Wichita MSA private sector has grown more slowly then both the Kansas and U.S. private sectors.

The Wichita MSA government sector has grown faster than both the Kansas and US government sectors.

Would you say that the economic development efforts of Wichita and Sedgwick County have been successful?

Job growth in the states

How does your state compare to others in job growth? Is your state growing private sector or government jobs fastest? The interactive visualization below can help you explore this data.

To use the visualization, click the check boxes to add or remove states from the charts. Click on a single job type to display, and select a range of years. Use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window. Data is from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

State and local government employees, a visualization

How does your state compare to others in the number of state and local government employees, and the payroll costs of these employees?

The following interactive visualization lets you compare any states. Data is presented separately for state government employees and local government employees. The number of employees is presented as full-time equivalent employees per thousand population. Payroll costs are presented as annual payroll costs per capita population.

To use the visualization, click the check boxes to add or remove states from the charts. Click on axis labels to display a sorting menu. Use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window. Data is for 2011, obtained from U.S. Census Bureau; visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

State and local tax burden visualized

For two decades the Tax Foundation has estimated the combined state and local tax burden for all the states. I’ve created an interactive visualization that lets you compare states and see trends in rank over time.

In its publication, the Tax Foundation explains:

For each state, we compute this measure of tax burden by totaling the amount of state and local taxes paid by state residents to both their own and other governments and then divide these totals by each state’s total income. We not only make this calculation for the most recent year, but also for earlier years due to the fact that income and tax revenue data are periodically revised by government agencies.

Our goal here is to move the focus from the tax collector to the taxpayer. We aim to find what percentage of state income residents are paying in state and local taxes and whether those taxes are paid to their own state or to others.

The most recent version of the report is located at Annual State-Local Tax Burden Ranking (2010) – New York Citizens Pay the Most, Alaska the Least.

To use the visualization, click on any state from the map. To add states, use Ctrl+click. Use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window. Data from Tax Foundation; visualization created using Tableau Public.

Trends in government spending

The interactive visualization below may help you appreciate the trend in federal and local government spending. Spending is presented as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Data from U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Use the visualization below, or click here to open in a new window.

Obama will need more economic growth

To pay for the Obama taxing and spending agenda, the country will need much more economic growth. Unfortunately, the rate of growth is slowing just when we need greater rates of growth.

It’s commonly thought that annual real (after-inflation) growth of three percent is required just to keep up with population. More than that is needed to restore the loss in middle-class income during Obama’s first term. But here’s what has happened to the rate of growth.

Gross Domestic Product, Real, Annual Change

The direction of change in economic growth is moving in the wrong direction, and it’s far below what is needed. Darkening the horizon are the planned increases in spending, in particular ObamaCare, will be a further drag on the economy. Other Obama policies are distinctly anti-growth. It’s difficult to have an optimistic outlook.

Stephen Moore and Arthur Laffer told the story last summer in the Wall Street Journal:

The first is how much government spending fell during President Bill Clinton’s eight years in office and how low it was when he left office. When he became president in 1992, government spending was 23.5% of GDP, and when he left in 2001 it was 19.5% of GDP. President Clinton, in conjunction with a solid Republican Congress, cut government spending by more than any other president in modern times, and oversaw one of the greatest periods of economic growth and prosperity in U.S. history.

Sadly for fiscal conservatives, the biggest surge in government spending came during the last two years of President George W. Bush’s eight years in office (2007-2008). A weakened Republican president dealing with a strident Democratic Congress, led by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, resulted in an orgy of spending.

Mr. Bush and Republicans in Congress capitulated to and even promoted each and every government bailout and populist redistribution canard put before them. It’s a long list, starting with the 2003 trillion-dollar Medicare prescription drug benefit and culminating with the actions taken to stem the 2008 financial meltdown — the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailout of insurance giant AIG and government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the ill-advised 2008 $600-per-person tax rebate, the stimulus add-ons to 2007’s housing and farm bills, etc. The script had it that greedy right-wingers were the cause of our collapse, and deficit spending and easy money the answer.

The numbers are mind boggling. From the second quarter of 2007, i.e., the first full quarter of a Pelosi-Reid dominated Congress and a politically weakened President Bush, to the second quarter of 2009 when President Obama assumed office, government spending skyrocketed to 27.3% of GDP from 21.4%. It was the largest peacetime expansion of government spending in U.S. history.

Following is an interactive visualization of federal revenues, expenditures, and the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product that illustrates these trends. Use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window.

Growth in Gross Domestic Product by metropolitan area

Here’s an interactive visualization that illustrates the growth in Gross Domestic Product by metropolitan area. Dollar amounts are in chained 2005 dollars to eliminate the effects of inflation. Each metropolitan area is indexed to start at 100% so we can see the relative rates of growth.

The top two charts show the growth in GDP for government, and then for the private sector. The bottom chart shows growth in GDP per capita (per person).

Highlight one or more metropolitan areas to make the line stand out from the others. Use Ctrl+Click to add or subtract others. Use the visualization below, or click here to open in a new window.

Data from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Visualization created using Tableau Public.

Growth in Gross Domestic Product by state

Here’s an interactive visualization that illustrates the growth in Gross Domestic Product by state and region. Dollar amounts are in chained 2005 dollars to eliminate the effects of inflation. Each state or region is indexed to start at 100% so we can see the relative rates of growth.

The top two charts show the growth in GDP for government, and then for the private sector. The bottom chart shows growth in GDP per capita (per person).

Click to highlight one or more states or regions to make its line stand out from the others. Use Ctrl+Click to add or subtract other states and regions. Use the visualization below, or click here to open in a new window.

Data from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

A spending problem, or a revenue problem?

Does the United States have a revenue problem or a spending problem? The interactive visualization below may help you decide.

Spending and revenue are presented as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). One observation is the tax revenue has risen on a fairly steady progression until the Bush II and Obama recessions. This is in spite of the top marginal tax rate varying wildly during this period.

Were the budget surpluses of the late years of the Clinton presidency due to rising tax revenue, or declining spending?

Data from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Use the visualization below, or click here to open in a new window.

Size and growth of Kansas economy, by industry

Here is an interactive visualization of the composition of the Kansas economy, by industry. Growth — or not — over the last ten years is shown. Select one or more industries to compare them side-by-side.

Use the visualization below, or click here to open in a new window.

GDP growth by state and region

Here is a visualization that shows the rate of growth of gross domestic product by state, regions, and the entire country. You may select one or more areas from the list by using Ctrl while clicking. The data is indexed, so that each area starts with a value of 100 in 1997.

Data is from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Use the visualization below or click here to open in a new window.