« The massive burden of pie charts | Main | 9-9-9 data deserving a chart »



Sorry, but the chart-maker clearly said that they hadn't "adusted" for inflation...;)


One might comment that all the extra meaningless stuff on the chart might be a metaphor for higher education itself, where we all managed to learn a lot of extra meaningless stuff.


One typical reason or excuse for not adjusting for inflation is that it is not always clear what is the correct way of adjusting, or if it is known, that the necessary data series does not exist (e.g., is the CPI index an/the appropriate base for taking out inflation from tuition, room and board?)

H. T. Reynolds

This graph does meet some standards (e.g. data to plot size), but I agree with the main point, way too much ink for the amount of data, redundancy, etc.


The fact is it is using data to mislead. Harvard over this period I belive has also significantly increased student aid. It would be useful to show both full Ron and board and what the average actually paid ECG year after need based financial aid.

Craig W

I think adjusting a time series for inflation is important, but I don't believe that makes the chart any more useful. Regardless of the whether or not it is adjusted, isn't the obvious question, "is that a lot?".

So why not include a a more relevant reference/adjustment... like the cost of other top-tier private schools? And/or public schools? I mean, so what if the cost of Harvard has increased by 220% if public colleges have increased 1500% over the same period of time? And wouldn't we feel moved by this data if the cost of Yale increased only 25% over the same period of time? Or 500%?

Or what if the average starting salary of Harvard graduates has increased 560% over the same period of time? Wouldn't that change the perception of the data?

Simply adjusting this data for inflation doesn't make the chart much better, but answering the obvious first question does.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
Visit my website. Follow my Twitter. See my articles at Daily Beast, 538, HBR.

See my Youtube and Flickr.

Book Blog

Link to junkcharts

Graphics design by Amanda Lee

The Read

Keep in Touch

follow me on Twitter