Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Every year, the average American takes home about $51,600 in personal income.
Of course, what you make each year depends on factors like your job, work ethic, education, and personal circumstances – but it also varies significantly over geography.
The Geographical Wage Gap
Today’s chart uses data from the Brookings Institute, and it focuses on the geographical wage gap, or the difference in per capita income that exists between various U.S. regions.
Interestingly, it’s a gap that has historically narrowed over time.
Just after the Great Depression, income per capita in the Mideast was 50% higher than the average American, and roughly three times higher than in the Southeast. Over the next 50 years, this gap would continue to narrow until reaching its smallest differential by the mid-1980s.
In the last couple of decades, however, the geographical wage gap has shown signs of a potential reversal: per capita incomes in New England, Mideast, and Far West have been increasing relative to the average American wage, while other regions are remaining more stagnant.
The Vitality Index
Wages are just one factor in measuring prosperity, and the Brookings Institute has attempted to create a more well-rounded approach to this with the Vitality Index.
The Vitality Index is comprised of the following variables:
- Median household income – 45%
- Poverty rate – 24%
- Life expectancy – 13%
- Prime-age employment-to-population ratio – 9%
- Housing vacancy rate – 5%
- Unemployment rate – 4%
The following map is directly from the aforementioned report, and it shows the Vitality Index by county, using recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau:
Which areas have seen the biggest increases and decreases in vitality?
The Great Lakes region, which relies heavily on manufacturing, has seen the most significant drop between 1980-2016, while the Mideast has seen the biggest rise over that same 26 year period.
Cost of Living
One fair point of objection to the analysis of the Vitality Index – or any measure of economic differences between geographic regions – is that cost of living is not taken directly into account.
Here is what the researchers had to say on this:
It would be reasonable to adjust median household income for cost of living, but we opted to not do this for two reasons. First, cost-of-living estimates that are comparable across places are not available for 1980. Second, cost of living may vary for reasons that are directly related to the county vitality we seek to measure. For example, a place with stronger labor demand or better local public goods could attract in-migration that contributes to higher housing prices. Finally, cost of living may reflect the amenity value of a place, and not simply inflated prices for the same goods and services.
No analysis is perfect, but the Vitality Index and historical data on per capita income are interesting to consider when framing any analysis on wages, prosperity, and economic inequality in America.
Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes
Flying can get you almost anywhere, but often people are journeying between two popular destinations. Here we map the busiest air routes globally.
Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes
Modern air travel gives us almost unlimited possibilities for getting around.
Whether you are acting on your wanderlust to explore new and exotic destinations, hopping to a familiar island for a well-deserved vacation, or jetsetting to London in the comfort of business class, the modern airline industry can get you almost anywhere you need to go.
But while flying allows us to have unique experiences, it’s often the case that we are all coming and going from many of the same popular destinations. As a result, the world’s busiest air routes have hundreds of flights per day connecting important city pairs together.
Ranking City Pairs
Today’s chart pulls data from OAG, which has compiled a detailed report ranking the busiest domestic and international air routes from around the globe.
It’s worth noting that the data is over the period of March 2018 to February 2019, and it excludes carriers that operate fewer than 500 routes per year.
Let’s dive in to see which city pairs have the most air travel between them.
Domestic routes are far more popular than international routes globally. According to the report, there are 15 domestic routes that have more operating flights per year than any international route anywhere.
Here’s a look at the top 10 domestic routes:
|Rank||Country||City Pair||Flights (Annually)||Carriers|
|#1||🇰🇷||Jeju ↔️ Seoul||79,460||7|
|#2||🇦🇺||Melbourne ↔️ Sydney||54,102||4|
|#3||🇮🇳||Mumbai ↔️ Delhi||45,188||6|
|#4||🇧🇷||São Paulo ↔️ Rio de Janeiro||39,747||3|
|#5||🇯🇵||Fukuoka ↔️ Toyko||39,406||4|
|#6||🇻🇳||Hanoi ↔️ Ho Chi Minh City||39,291||3|
|#7||🇯🇵||Hokkaido ↔️ Tokyo||39,271||4|
|#8||🇮🇩||Jakarta ↔️ Surabaya City||37,762||6|
|#9||🇺🇸||Los Angeles ↔️ San Francisco||35,365||5|
|#10||🇸🇦||Jeddah ↔️ Riyadh||35,149||5|
The busiest domestic route might be a surprise, unless you are familiar with Asian geography.
With almost 80,000 annual flights, the 300-mile hop between Seoul and Jeju Island in South Korea is the busiest air route in the world by a large margin. Overall, there are seven carriers competing on it each day, with over 200 daily flights available between them.
What makes Jeju so popular?
Known as the “Hawaii of South Korea”, this volcanic island is an extremely popular vacation destination within the country, and it hosts roughly 15 million guests per year.
On an international basis, the busiest route has almost 50,000 fewer flights per year than the Jeju-Seoul city pair listed above. Not surprisingly, this route – and many other top international routes – are also located in the Asia Pacific region.
|Rank||Countries||City Pair||Flights (Annually)||Carriers|
|#1||🇲🇾🇸🇬||Kuala Lumpur ↔️ Singapore||30,187||8|
|#2||🇭🇰🇹🇼||Hong Kong ↔️ Taipei||28,447||5|
|#3||🇮🇩🇸🇬||Jakarta ↔️ Singapore||27,046||7|
|#4||🇭🇰🇨🇳||Hong Kong ↔️ Shanghai||20,678||5|
|#5||🇮🇩🇲🇾||Jakarta ↔️ Kuala Lumpur||19,741||8|
|#6||🇰🇷🇯🇵||Seoul ↔️ Osaka||19,711||8|
|#7||🇺🇸🇨🇦||New York (LGA) ↔️ Toronto||17,038||3|
|#8||🇭🇰🇰🇷||Hong Kong ↔️ Seoul||15,770||9|
|#9||🇹🇭🇸🇬||Bangkok ↔️ Singapore||14,698||5|
|#10||🇦🇪🇰🇼||Dubai ↔️ Kuwait||14,581||4|
The short hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur takes only one hour, and it connects two major Southeast Asian commercial hubs. The route has 41 flights per day between eight airlines, making it one of the most competitive routes globally.
The busiest international route outside of the Asia Pacific is between Toronto and New York (LaGuardia) with 17,038 annual flights. Interestingly, it only has three competing carriers – the lowest of any of the top 10 routes.
Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions
The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the landmark agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions
A united African continent working towards common goals would be a major force on the global economic stage.
To this end, nations in the region have been working towards an ambitious plan to create the world’s largest trade area. The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
Today’s graphic helps put the region – and the status of AfCFTA – into perspective.
The Patchwork Problem
One key to unlocking the region’s economic potential is making it easier for Africa’s 55 countries to trade with one another.
Currently, Africa is a patchwork of regulations and tariffs, and trade between countries has suffered as a result. For example, only 10% of Nigeria’s annual trade activity is with other African countries. This is a surprising given the country’s dominant economic standing and location firmly in the center of the continent.
As a whole, Africa’s intra-continental trade level hovers at just around 20%, while nations in Europe and Asia are at 69% and 59%, respectively. Clearly, there is a lot of room for growth.
What is AfCFTA?
AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The objective of the agreement is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.
Last year, 44 African leaders signed an agreement to ratify AfCFTA, with half that number needed to move the agreement forward. Earlier this week, The Gambia was the 22nd country to announce that its government has ratified the agreement, meeting the threshold to officially put the wheels in motion.
We have witnessed a historic moment for the African Continent. AfCFTA is now set to become operational within
the month, creating a single continental market for goods
– Mark-Anthony Johnson, CEO, JIC Holdings
The good news for the agreement is that many of Africa’s largest economies – including Egypt and South Africa – are already on board. There is, however, one significant holdout.
The Elephant in the Room
Even though the threshold for pushing AfCFTA forward has been reached, Nigeria’s lack of commitment is still a major blow to the strength and credibility of the agreement.
Nigeria’s situation is complicated. The country’s economic prospects are bright, and Lagos is on a trajectory to become the world’s largest city over the next few decades. On the other hand, there is fierce opposition from labor unions, and the country is home to largest concentration of people living in extreme poverty in the world.
[AfCFTA is] an extremely dangerous and radioactive
neo-liberal policy initiative.
– Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, Nigeria’s largest labor union
While the majority of African nations appear to be on board with the plan to enact AfCFTA, it remains to be seen whether Nigeria comes along for the ride or decides to go it alone.
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