Rising high: A brief history of the housing market

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:

Cartogram animation of sold housing value from 1995 to 2014
(click for larger version)

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Wood-works: Mapping the world’s commercial forestry

While ‘sustainability’ is in everyone’s mouth – from academia to politics – few are aware that the term was originally shaped in relation to the early days of modern forestry: In the early 18th century, Hans Carl von Carlowitz coined the German word ‘Nachhaltigkeit’ which in a simplified way meant to ensure that enough trees were replanted to ensure the long-term existence of wood supplies (from where the term found its way into its broader meaning that we use it for today). While wood has for a long time been an important resource, it todays is also an important global trade product. In 2007 the FAO stated that “over the last 20 years international trade of forest products […] increased from US$60 billion to US$257 billion, an average annual growth of 6.6%.”
The following cartograms show different aspects related to forestry, including the production of wood for economic activity, the consumption of wood and wood-related products (such as paper), as well as global exports and imports of this (using data for 2011 by FAOstat):

Cartogram visualisations global forest production, consumption and trade
(click for larger version)

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In Focus: The London Housing Bubble

Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2014, Volume 5, Issue 1) Danny Dorling and I looked at the overheating of the housing market in London. The graphics that I created for this feature visualise the considerable changes that took place in recent years using data from an analysis reported in the Guardian: In 2012, the total value of residential property in London was reported to be £1.37 trillion. The value of housing in the capital dominated the UK housing market. By 2013, the value of London housing had risen to £1.47 trillion. Some £100 billion had been added in just one year, an additional £30,000 per property if the rise had been evenly spread out across the capital. However, just as within England, this increase was concentrated within certain areas, particularly those closest to the centre.
When London is redrawn with each borough sized according to the value of residential property, the largest borough becomes Kensington and Chelsea where the average home now costs £1.57 million. Westminster, with more housing but an average value of ‘only’£1.1 million is almost as large. Wandsworth, more typical at £527,000 a home, is more than three times the size of Newham despite having just 30 per cent more homes. However, even in Newham, the ‘cheapest borough’, the average property now sells for over £218,000.

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In Focus: The real size of Offshore Financial Centres


Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3) Jan Fichtner of the University of Frankfurt a.M. and I analysed the size of the foreign assets in the world’s largest offshore financial centres. All ‘offshore financial centres’ (OFCs) have one characteristic feature in common; they offer very low tax rates and lax regulations to non-residents with the aim to attract foreign financial assets. OFCs essentially undercut ‘onshore’ jurisdictions at their expense. The main beneficiaries are high-net-worth individuals and large multinational corporations that have the capital and expertise required to utilise OFCs. Beyond its geographical connotation the phenomenon of ‘offshore’ represents a withdrawal of public regulation and control, primarily over finance. Some important OFCs are in fact located ‘onshore’, e.g. Delaware in the USA and the City of London in the UK. However, historically many OFCs have literally developed ‘off-shore’, mostly on small islands.
OFCs as defined by Zoromé (2007) are jurisdictions that provide financial services to non-residents on a scale that is excessive compared to the size and the financing of their domestic economies. The graphic shows combined data on securities (Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey by the IMF) and on deposits/loans (Locational Banking Statistics by the BIS) at the end of 2011. Capturing the two by far most important components of financial centres allows a reasonable approximation of the real size of OFCs while avoiding double counting. The larger the size of the circles on the map, the more foreign financial assets have been attracted to the particular jurisdiction. The vast majority of the almost US$70 trillion foreign financial assets are concentrated in North America, Europe and Japan. Areas with assets below $US50bn are not shown for their relative insignificance in the global context.

Offshore Financial Centres

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20 years of German exports

Europe’s Economic Powerhouse Drifts East read a headline in the New York Times last year, referring to the shifting economies not only within the European Union as shown in a series of cartograms on this website, but also in a wider sense. As the NYT states: “Last year [i.e. 2010], the euro area’s share of German exports fell to 41 percent from 43 percent in 2008, while Asia’s share rose to 16 percent from 12 percent, according to Bundesbank figures. During the same period, exports to Asia rose by €28 billion, while exports to the euro area fell by the same amount.Continue reading

Shifting Economies in the European Union

The European economic crisis has been part of some previous maps shown on this website. So far, all of these maps on Europe’s debt were based on national-level data which do not show the full picture of the economic structure of the European countries. A couple of weeks ago EUROSTAT published some more detailed economic data for the GDP output on NUTS 2 level, which allows to understand the subnational variation of economic output. The data only covers data ranging from 1997 to 2008 (so far), but it is the most detailed coherent picture of the shifting economic powers within the EU27 countries in over a decade and draws the picture of the European Union sliding into the global economic crisis.
I looked at the data in a series of maps that view the economic shape of the European Union from different perspectives. The first map displays the GDP distribution in the first year of the financial crisis (2008) and the NUTS2-areas are redrawn according to their total GDP output in that year. The colours indicate the GDP growth rate in that year, showing how well many parts still dealt with the approaching crisis, and as if the crisis followed a geographical path from its US origins, the UK and Irish economies were the first to be severely hit in their economic growth in the year of the Lehman collapse. Only Sweden shows a similar bleak picture, but on a much lower level. It is interesting to see that the initially collapsing banking sector in London is not only affecting the GDP development in the Southeast of the UK, but basically pulls the whole national economy into a downturn:

Map of the 2008 EU GDP on regional level in 2008 (with growth rates)

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