In the midst of election season, we are bombarded with articles predicting who will win which seat and why. They include statistics, pictures, and even maps to educate and excite the reader about what’s happening in the political world. For educational purposes, these articles are great. They present the information in a format that is not only fun but also easily understandable. In a time where political knowledge is low and hindered by partisanship, these articles are an effective tool.
But do these articles present information that the everyday American really wants or needs to know? Is there more useful information that we should be spreading? On Monday, Politico Magazine published a story called “10 Maps that Explain the 2014 Midterms.” It breaks down the upcoming election with colorful maps showing indicators like whether a state was won by Romney or Obama in 2012, which county could be the most important for the election, and whether a seat is considered safe or not. Informational? Yes. Useful? Perhaps…
Most Americans don’t wake up wondering who will likely win the open West Virginia senate seat. Most, instead, are concerned with finding a job or learning the new skills they need to keep up in their industry or make the switch to a higher paying career. The elections, no doubt, are important. As someone who has worked in politics and still interacts with elected officials in my current capacity, I fully understand that who we elect becomes responsible for policy making that affects our everyday lives. But, where are the maps and charts that really matter – the ones that show us the information that we really need to know right now?
Here at T4A, we’ve come up with a few.
Our first one comes from Code.org, a non-profit, founded by T4A.org board members Hadi and Ali Partovi, that is “dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color.”¹ In fact, one of their main initiatives is to increase the number of schools in which computer science can count towards graduation. The map above shows, in green, the 20 states that currently allow computer science to count for high school math and science requirements. Code.org is striving to make changes in the remaining 30 states so that students everywhere have the opportunity to learn a skill necessary for 60% of open math and science jobs. Learn more here: http://code.org/files/convince_your_school_or_state.pdf
But where are the tech companies that hire these software engineers? While computer science jobs exist all over the country and in every industry, a large chunk of the jobs are in the tech field. This map shows the number of NAICS 54 companies in each state. NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) is the mechanism used by the U.S. Census Bureau to classify in which industry a particular company fits. Codes 54 describes the sector “Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services.” The definition reads:
“The Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sector comprises establishments that specialize in performing professional, scientific, and technical activities for others. These activities require a high degree of expertise and training. The establishments in this sector specialize according to expertise and provide these services to clients in a variety of industries and, in some cases, to households. Activities performed include: legal advice and representation; accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services; architectural, engineering, and specialized design services; computer services; consulting services; research services; advertising services; photographic services; translation and interpretation services; veterinary services; and other professional, scientific, and technical services.”²
While this definition does include non-tech companies as well, it remains a good representation of where technical jobs exist.
We always hear elected officials say that there are x number of jobs available in the United States, but people don’t typically know where these jobs are or what skills they require. These two charts show job openings in the U.S., as of January 2014. The first shows job openings (in the thousands) by region. The next shows in which industry these job openings are located.
The map above shows mean earnings across the United States. While this information is relatively well-known, it’s helpful to compare the data state by state. It indicates to the viewer where they might be able to find higher paying jobs or where the economy tends to be stronger. What’s particularly interesting about this map is that while there doesn’t appear to be a significant difference across most of the country (23 states are in the $60,000-$70,000 range), the difference between the highest (Washington, D.C.) and lowest (Mississippi) states is almost $48,000.
Our final map is related to government, but in a different way than those in the Politico article. This one looks at government accountability and corruption at the state level. The question the map answers is “What is your state’s risk of corruption?” Unfortunately, there are no overachievers in this bunch with the highest grade of a B+ going to to New Jersey.
Each of these maps or charts show something different and each is useful in its own way. Rather than perpetuating the hype and partisanship that is associated with an election year, these infographics show vital information that can help people find jobs, earn more money, and demand more from their state governments. This data is all actionable and shows answers to questions that people ask everyday. While election maps are fun and can educate the public on the political sector, it’s useful also to highlight the information that can make a direct impact on an individual’s life right now.
¹About Us. Retrieved from http://code.org/about
² Definition retrieved from https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/sssd/naics/naicsrch?code=54&search=2012%20NAICS%20Search