I’ve played a bit with the other 3 datasets of the Tableau Public contest. When I get to see what others have done, it will be easier to take something from that after having manipulated them. The one I’ve spent most time with is the US budget spending one. Here’s the sheet I came up with:
(if the viz doesn’t show in the blog, here’s the direct link)
a few explanations:
Unit: % of GDP
The dataset covers almost 40 years, and includes a notion of inflation. But even with that it’s too difficult to compare spending over time. Instead of trying to convert everything to 2009 constant dollars, it’s easier (and it makes more sense) to compare everything as percentage of GDP.
Filter: by function
The original dataset lists over 30 departments. I don’t think they are immediately comparable as is, some being much bigger than others. Besides, it’s just too complicated to ask people to choose between 30 items to make comparisons. So, instead, I grouped several departments by function, as defined by the COFOG (classifications of functions of government, a UN classification). To be honest I wasn’t extra careful when I assigned some departments to a function, for instance Veteran Affairs could have been assigned to Defense or to Social Protection (I chose the latter). But the assignments are fair. The added bonus is that using functions enables us to make international comparisons:
Comparing with OECD values
Not too long ago I made a chart comparing OECD countries’ budget expenditures. So what I didn’t like about this dataset is that it didn’t give a way to determine whether US spendings in such or such area were high or low. From the dataset proper, one can tell that, for instance, that social protection expenses were never as high as in 2009. But are they really “high”? Or – defense expenditure were at an all-time low in 1999. But were they really low?
Comparing with other values help answer those questions. To continue on these 2 examples, social protection expenditure, in 2009, was 7.2% – a much higher share than in 1965 (3.9%) but still very low compared to OECD countries – the average being 15.2%. Conversely, defense, in 1999, only represented 3.1% of GDP – it was as high as 9% during Viet-Nam, and it’s almost 5% today. Meanwhile, the OECD average is 1.4%.
Again, that comparison is not very scientific, because the numbers used for those OECD averages include other levels of government (states, cities…) which are not included here. But still, they help putting the dataset in the context.