Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Neat Graphic for Global Perspective

This was in a special section called “Outlook” of The Wall Street Journal on January 20. At one level, we are concerned with understanding the gross size of different economies. But at another, we’re concerned about proportions of the global economy. That’s what this one is all about.


The color scheme is common through all 9 panels: the U.S. is dark pink; Asian countries are in blue with India towards the center, Japan on the right, and China in the middle; and Europe is in the middle in shades of gray.

The vertical scope is the last 25 years, with the distant past at the top.

The top left panel shows GDP. The U.S. is a somewhat smaller fraction than it used to be. The big loser is Japan, and the big gainer is China — although China is not yet as important as Japan was 25 years ago.

The middle left shows population, which is always pretty stable. India and China have always been the most populous, but India is slowly taking the lead. Most Americans are surprised to find out that we’re the 3rd most populous country, and amongst developed countries we’re the ones with the consistently highest population growth rate (yeah Mormons!, yeah evangelical Christians, yeah immigration!).

The middle panel shows air traffic: a good indicator of development. Here, we see a shift towards Asia over the last generation. Directly to the right of that is shipping. There’s been a huge surge towards Asia here. Of course, this is export driven, but a lot of it is also the warm, temperate, western Pacific, and the ability to build brand new harbors to service container ships (which are a new thing over the last generation or two, and revolutionary at that).

The bottom row is reserved for the bad news.

The left panel shows refugees. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia are the fat ones there, and Syria is the big new one at the bottom. Do note that the refugee problem in Afghanistan was at least as large before America got heavily involved there as it is now. And we’ve been out of Somalia for 25 years, and have avoided Syria. Also note that there are several refugee problems that have been solved, so it isn’t like these things are intractable.

The middle panel shows remittances: payments made to the home country from citizens working overseas. Asia is big here, and most of that is people working in the Middle East. Do note that remittances to Mexico actually peaked 10 years ago. Politicians have been leading from behind long before Obama made it trendy: they’re most worried about immigration, when economists will tell you that it’s a story that’s getting stale.

The last panel, at the bottom right, shows carbon dioxide emissions. If you’re worried about that sort of thing, there’s really no point in worrying about anything other than China right now.

This accompanied an article entitled “Global Economy Loses Steam”.

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