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These 3 Maps Help to Visualize America’s $18 Trillion Economy

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The United States has a $18 trillion economy, which makes it the world’s largest by GDP.

To show its tremendous size, we previously published a visualization of the global economy that carved the world’s economic production into slices based on each country’s contribution to GDP. While this visualization helps to show how large the U.S. economy is in comparison to other nations, it still doesn’t seem to tell the full story.

After all, the United States is geographically vast and diverse, and population is spread out and unevenly distributed. This means production and innovation are both concentrated in some areas of the country, while other parts are clearly more rural.

How can we account for these differences to get a more accurate view of the U.S. economic engine?

3 Maps to Visualize America’s $18 Trillion Economy

Luckily, Mark J. Perry from AEI’s Carpe Diem blog has done some heavy lifting here to help us better understand the size and scope of America’s economy activity.

Here’s three maps that will make you think:

America's $18 Trillion Economy Compared to Countries

The first map redraws state borders to make seven “mega-states” that each have individual economies the size of major countries. California, for example, has an economy the size of France. The whole Northeast has an economy the size of Japan, and so on.

But even states are very diverse in geography – for example, Arizona has 6.7 million people, but more than two-thirds of those people live in the Phoenix metro area.

American Metro Areas Compared to Countries

The second map compares the economies of metropolitan areas with entire countries. As you can see, the aforementioned Phoenix metro area has similar economic output to Portugal.

Meanwhile, the whole corridor from New York through to Washington, D.C. is as big as Canada, Iran, Czech Republic, and Sweden combined.

America's Economy Split in Half

The final map builds on this idea, showing that half of America’s economic output comes just from a selection of metropolitan areas. The other half of America’s $18 trillion economy is based in the large swaths of land in between, including thousands of rural areas, villages, towns, and cities.

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Maps

Mapped: The Salary Needed to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Metro Areas

The annual salary needed to buy a home in the U.S. ranges from $38k to $255k, depending on the metropolitan area you are looking in.

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The Salary Needed to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Metro Areas

Over the last year, home prices have risen in 49 of the biggest 50 metro areas in the United States.

At the same time, mortgage rates have hit seven-year highs, making things more expensive for any prospective home buyer.

With this context in mind, today’s map comes from HowMuch.net, and it shows the salary needed to buy a home in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas.

The Least and Most Expensive Metro Areas

As a reference point, the median home in the United States costs about $257,600, according to the National Association of Realtors.

 Median Home PriceMontly Payment (PITI)Salary Needed
National$257,600$1,433.91$61,453.51

With a 20% down payment and a 4.90% mortgage rate, and taking into account what’s needed to pay principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI) on the home, it would mean a prospective buyer would need to have $61,453.51 in salary to afford such a purchase.

However, based on your frame of reference, this national estimate may seem extremely low or quite high. That’s because the salary required to buy in different major cities in the U.S. can fall anywhere between $37,659 to $254,835.

The 10 Cheapest Metro Areas

Here are the cheapest metro areas in the U.S., based on data and calculations from HSH.com:

RankMetro AreaMedian Home PriceMonthly Payment (PITI)Salary Needed
#1Pittsburgh$141,625$878.73$37,659.86
#2Cleveland$150,100$943.55$40,437.72
#3Oklahoma City$161,000$964.49$41,335.41
#4Memphis$174,000$966.02$41,400.93
#5Indianapolis$185,200$986.74$42,288.92
#6Louisville$180,100$987.54$42,323.15
#7Cincinnati$169,400$1,013.37$43,429.97
#8St. Louis$174,100$1,031.70$44,215.56
#9Birmingham$202,300$1,040.51$44,593.35
#10Buffalo$154,200$1,066.29$45,698.05

After the dust settles, Pittsburgh ranks as the cheapest metro area in the U.S. to buy a home. According to these calculations, buying a median home in Pittsburgh – which includes the surrounding metro area – requires an annual income of less than $40,000 to buy.

Just missing the list was Detroit, where a salary of $48,002.89 is needed.

The 10 Most Expensive Metro Areas

Now, here are the priciest markets in the country, also based on data from HSH.com:

RankMetro AreaMedian Home PriceMonthly Payment (PITI)Salary Needed
#1San Jose$1,250,000$5,946.17$254,835.73
#2San Francisco$952,200$4,642.82$198,978.01
#3San Diego$626,000$3,071.62$131,640.79
#4Los Angeles$576,100$2,873.64$123,156.01
#5Boston$460,300$2,491.76$106,789.93
#6New York City$403,900$2,465.97$105,684.33
#7Seattle$489,600$2,458.58$105,367.89
#8Washington, D.C.$417,400$2,202.87$94,408.70
#9Denver$438,300$2,139.02$91,672.45
#10Portland$389,000$1,987.37$85,173.08

Topping the list of the most expensive metro areas are San Jose and San Francisco, which are both cities fueled by the economic boom in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, two other major metro areas in California, Los Angeles and San Diego, are not far behind.

New York City only ranks in sixth here, though it is worth noting that the NYC metro area extends well beyond the five boroughs. It includes Newark, Jersey City, and many nearby counties as well.

As a final point, it’s worth mentioning that all cities here (with the exception of Denver) are in coastal states.

Notes on Calculations

Data on median home prices comes from the National Association of Realtors and is based on 2018 Q4 information, while national mortgage rate data is derived from weekly surveys by Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America for 30-year fixed rate mortgages.

Calculations include tax and homeowners insurance costs to determine the annual salary it takes to afford the base cost of owning a home (principal, interest, property tax and homeowner’s insurance, or PITI) in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Standard 28% “front-end” debt ratios and a 20% down payments subtracted from the median-home-price data are used to arrive at these figures.

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Data Visualization

Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

Where are the happiest, least happy, and fastest improving countries worldwide? We’ve broken down this annual ranking by region to answer that question.

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Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

The state of our world is shifting beneath our feet — economics alone no longer equate to satisfaction, let alone happiness.

Today’s visualization pulls data from the seventh World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. We’ve previously shown the variables used to measure happiness in this report, but here, we break down rankings by continent and region for a clearer picture of where each country lies.

happiness north america map

North America

Unhappy Americans have caused the country to tumble in rankings for a third straight year, despite evidence that things are generally looking up. The report attributes much of this erosion to a variety of addictions: opioids, workaholism, gambling, internet, exercise, and even shopping are among them.

Haiti is the least happy country in this region. The country is still struggling to rebuild sanitation infrastructure and other educational and healthcare programs, despite foreign aid.

In brighter news, Nicaragua is seeing great gains in happiness levels, as the country makes a concentrated effort to reduce poverty.

happiness south america map

South America

In South America, the majority of countries cluster around a score of six on the happiness scale.

The one notable exception to this is Venezuela, which is faltering in both happiness rank and regional improvement. The nation’s hyperinflation and humanitarian crisis both show no signs of slowing down.

happiness europe map

Europe

Finland comes out on top of the world for a second consecutive year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The country boasts a stable work-life balance, bolstered by a comprehensive welfare state.

Scandinavian countries appear among the happiest nations for similar very reasons — elevating the region’s score to 16% above the global average.

On the flip side, Ukraine is the unhappiest, likely intensified by the ongoing war in southeastern Donbass. Greece is the least improved, as it continues to heal from the sovereign debt crisis.

happiness middle east map

Middle East and Central Asia

Uzbekistan shows the swiftest regional improvement, as the country has launched an ambitious reform agenda for greater economic, social, and political development and openness.

Unfortunately, Syria’s continued civil war comes with a heavy price for its people and economy, as does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — although the latter doesn’t seem to impact Israel’s happiness ranking. In fact, Israel finished with the 13th best score, globally.

happiness asia 2019

Rest of Asia and Oceania

In East Asia, the average happiness score is quite close to the global average, with Taiwan standing out as the happiest country.

Singapore out-competes other countries within Southeast Asia, despite only being home to a population of 5.6 million. Its neighbor Malaysia, however, plunged from 35th to 80th place.

Oceania stands alone – Australia and New Zealand are closely matched in their individual happiness scores.

happiness africa map

Africa

The African continent as a whole fares 19.2% below the global average. But there are silver linings, with strong strides towards improvement being made.

Mauritius benefits from good governance and a buoyant tourism sector — with visitor arrivals equal to the island’s 1.3 million population. Meanwhile, Benin has soared in the rankings, and is supported by the World Bank in key structural reforms such as poverty reduction and access to basic services.

What could these rankings look like in another ten years?

Notes: The Africa map was updated to show more country scores. The report only covers 156 countries, so “Oceania” only refers to Australia and New Zealand in this instance.

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