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The Relative Value of $100 in Every American State and County

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Money at Face Value

Not all money is equal. Even though the face value of money stays relatively constant, the purchasing power that is behind it can differ wildly.

We know this intuitively with our personal experiences with things like inflation, but it is also true depending on where you are spending it. In an expensive metropolitan area it may cost more for ordinary goods, while in a rural place it may buy more than you may expect. Today’s charts use information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to look at data at the state and county level to see where money can get the most “bang for the buck” in purchasing most goods and services.

Hawaii and D.C. are Money Pits

Looking at the cost of living by state level (and including the District of Columbia), the most expensive places to live are: Hawaii, Washington D.C., New York, and New Jersey. California and Maryland are close behind.

In all of these places, on average, spending $100 will only get you about $85 of goods and services relative to the rest of the country.

Here it is mapped:

The Value of $100 by State
The best places to get bang for your buck? Each dollar goes further in the Midwest and the South. Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and South Dakota are among the cheapest states to live.

More Granularity by County

The data becomes much more interesting as it becomes more granular. It also makes sense because most people in Washington State know that money goes further in Spokane in comparison to Seattle. In the big metropolitan areas, or parts of remote states such as Alaska or Hawaii, the cost of living goes up significantly.

Here’s the data by county mapped:

The Value of $100 by County
Here’s the five most expensive places in America:

1. Honolulu ($81.37)
2. New York-Newark-Jersey City ($81.83)
3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara ($81.97)
4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk ($82.31)
5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward ($82.44)

The cheapest place? It looks like it is rural Mississippi where $100 can buy you more than $125 of goods.

Original graphics from: Tax Foundation

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Countries

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Türkiye0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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