The UK general election is fast approaching. Following the first almost-debate of the would-like-to-be Prime Ministers the battle for the ‘correct’ interpretation of the state of the nation has come into its final stage. Statistics are easy to twist, and there is never an absolute truth in them. In a collaboration with the Office for National Statistics I was involved in the creation of a little interactive visualisation feature that sheds light on some key statistics that show life in the constituencies around the country. Using a conventional map and a hexagon cartogram of the United Kingdom we looked at house prices, income, public sector employment, education, age, migration, and health which can be interactively explored and compared in both map views. The following map is one example from that feature, showing the share of people not born in the United Kingdom:
House price monopoly would be a better name for what has turned into a defining political issue ahead of the 2015 general election. As the ONS states in its latest release of long-term housing sales data, “the average price of sold houses in England and Wales has more than doubled since 1995” and “nearly a million properties were sold in 2013.” The dynamics of the housing market is about more than people looking for a place to live. It has become a substantial part of the British economy.
The following cartogram animation puts this trend into a vivid perspective. It shows the absolute value of all housing stock sold in a year for the regions of England as well as the boroughs of London, which itself becomes ever more dominant over the past two decades. Only in economic weaker times it loses some of its pace compared to the rest of England, but stays way ahead of any other region. The animation also takes the absolute value displayed in each map into account by resizing England according to the total value represented in each map, so that the full cartogram itself grows (and shrinks after the crash in 2008) over time:
2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. As all around Europe, the British government made extensive plans to commemorate this accordingly (Prime Minister David Cameron’s words of the commemoration saying something about the British people like the Diamond Jubilee celebration were commented critically, while meanwhile commercial advertisers have discovered the emotional power of World War I). So-called Remembrance Day in November saw the display of a poppy field at the Tower of London as a commemoration of soldiers who died in war, a symbol which was introduced following the aftermath of World War I in 1921. But while today’s times are often referred to as the post-war era since the end of World War II, wars keep being fought, and soldiers from countries such as the United Kingdom keep dying in conflicts around the world. Last months the Independent Newspaper published figures from the UK Ministry of Defence (which I spotted on one of Alan Parkinson’s blogs) listing all 7,145 British military deaths since World War Two (including a count of deaths in Northern Ireland). I used that data and edited it according to today’s geography (such as splitting the number of British casualties during the 1950-1954 UN intervention in Korea equally between South and North Korea or assigning the deaths in the former British colonies to today’s independent countries) to draw the following Worldmapper-style cartogram that shows how far we are from living in a post-war era:
The debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.
According to a BBC News feature, “trends in migration are changing. Once, migrants from the same country tended to cluster in areas where they had relatives or friends. But new maps of England and Wales, reveal that for more recent migrants this is no longer the case” The maps of which this quote speak are a short series of cartograms created in collaboration of the BBC with the University of Sheffield in which we took a look at the first set of data from the 2011 Census in the United Kingdom (with much more detailed statistics due early next year). This is how some of the trends analysed by the BBC look like, using a gridded population cartogram of the country as a basemap for the lower maps shown here:
George Osborne’s autumn statement on the government’s budget rekindled the ongoing debate about the fairness of the coalition’s spending cuts. How does it look like if you take a look at the richest and the poorest parts of society? In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2012, Volume 3, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I plotted the geography of the wealthiest of the wealthy in the United Kingdom in comparison to poverty.
The map that I created for this feature displays the distribution of the top 1% of the wealthiest 1% according to information published by the agency WealthInsight, one of the companies trying to gather information on this part of the publication that is a prime target for exclusive marketing. Displayed in the map are data on people with assets in excess of US$30 million and where they have their prime address registered in the UK. The extent of the data is very limited because WealthInsight releases data for only 20 UK cities and regions based on postcode areas (Northern Ireland is a single postcode area which is why we did not correlate that data with Belfast’s overall population). Here we have superimposed that data on a population cartogram of the country, drawing circles with an area in proportion to the numbers of super-rich (in red) over people living in each city (in blue). Where they overlap, the circles turn into a purple colour. Where there are more super-rich people than population alone would predict, there is an orange ring around a purple core, as shown around London. Where there are fewer super-rich than the population of a city might predict, there is a blue outer-ring, as around Birmingham. The underlying map shows the distribution of poverty in the UK in five shades of grey.
Cities such as Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham have fewer super-rich than might be expected – partly because they are not especially affluent urban centres but also, most probably, because their postcode does not include nearby areas such as the North Yorkshire stockbroker belt or the Cotswolds. Aberdeen, in contrast, has some multimillionaires: beneficiaries of the oil boom with an Aberdeen postcode who live some distance from that city. With Manchester it is hard not to speculate that a few extra footballers may have tipped it over the limit.