Mind your Qs
Light entertainment: a splash of colors just in time for Labor Day frolicks

People are happier in some parts of the country as Labor Day nears

An anonymous reader sent in a Type V critique of the following map of July unemployment rates by state. The map was published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and used in a recent article in Vox.


Matt @ Vox took the BLS's bait, and singled out Mississippi as the worst in the nation. Our reader-contributor is none too pleased with this conclusion.

He noted that the red state stands out only because of the high "out of sample" top range of the legend. Three out of the seven colors are not found on the map at all! This is kind of like the white space problem when doing a line plot with large values and an axis starting at zero (for example, here), but the opposite. All the states are compressed into four colors, three of which are shades of orange.

The reader investigated, and reported back:

The top end of the legend seems to be set by Puerto Rico's 13.1%. Puerto Rico is omitted from the Vox map as well as from the BLS publication (link to PDF).

Mississippi only has the bare minimum, 8.0%, to qualify for the red color. Georgia is a 7.8; Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island are all 7.7.
24 (of the 50 States plus DC) are in the 6-8% band, and 21 are in the 4-6% band, with the remaining 5 under 4%.
None of the above is obvious when looking at the map.
In the Trifecta Checkup, this is a Type V chart. The data is accurate. The question being asked is clear but the visual construction is problematic.
[I'm seizing back the mike.] While the map is often not the best choice for showing geographic data, something we frequently cover on this blog, in this particular case, there is a strong regional pattern. Of course, with the compressed choice of colors, this regional pattern is not easily observed in the original.
The following small-multiples set of maps makes clear the regional pattern.

Happy Labor Day!



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