Data to Virtue

"Wisdom is to know what to do next; virtue is doing it." -- David Starr Jordan, American Naturalist -- Observation collects data from which we build knowledge. Wisdom makes sense of that knowledge. However, it is not enough to merely develop wisdom, we must act on what we know. That is virtue--and the purpose of this blog--from data to virtue.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Unemployment and Poverty

THE FIGURE:
In the figure below I have plotted the percentage of the population that is in poverty (red line) and the percentage of the workforce that are unemployed over the last few decades. For an explaination of the business at the bottom of the figure see the data detail. (Click on the figure for a larger version.) THE TAKEAWAY(S):
The good news is unemployment and poverty rates in the USA have remained relatively unchanged for quite some time. The bad news is, both could be lower. There tends to be cycles to the poverty rate (red line) and unemployment rate (green line), but the overall median remains relatively unchanged.

DISCUSSION:
I have spent a long time trying to get the statistical significance of any correlations of poverty and unemployment levels with political parties controlling the house, senate, or presidential office. There is absolutely no statistically valid correlation. In other words, it doesn't matter who's in office--democrats or republicans--changes in these categories are independent of political majorities and have their own cycles based on something else. If anything could be said from this additional analysis (not with statistical certainty, but appearance) it would be....
1-Unemployment seems to oscillate in five year cycles independent of politics.
2-There is a slight lowering of both unemployment and poverty if the house and senate have parity (almost equal number of republicans and democrats).
3-There are slightly more years where these levels trend down with democrats as president than with republicans.
These observations stem from analysis beyond that presented in the above figure.

To put the USA figures into perspective, here are some numbers from other countries...
country
. . .. unemp. . . poverty
- Vietnam. . . . 1.9
. . . . . 28.9
- Kuwait. . . . . 2.2
- Cuba
. . . . . . 2.5
- Taiwan
. . . . 4.5 . . . . . . 1.0
- Japan
. . . . . 4.7
- UK
. . . . . . . . 4.8 . . . . . 17.0
- Sweden
. . . 5.6
- India
. . . . . . 9.2 . . . . . 25.0
- China
. . . . . 9.8 . . . . . 10.0
- France
. . . . 10.1
- Germany. . 10.6
- Israel
. . . . . 10.7 . . . . . 18.0
- Iran
. . . . . . 11.2 . . . . . 40.0
- Iraq
. . . . . . 25.0
- Zambia
. . . 50.0
... as you can see, the USA could be better and it could be a lot worse.

SO WHAT?
Loan money to a small business in a developing country at Kiva Loans http://www.kiva.org/app.php.

Write your representatives and ask them to vote for legislation that provides opportunities to the unemployed and those in poverty and to vote against legislation that favors the "haves" over the "have nots." It is easier to amass wealth if you already have it. The "haves" don't need help getting more.
If you have any resources for groups that help with this type of legislation, contact me so I can check them out.

DATA DETAIL:
The poverty data is from the Census Bureau and the unemployment data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data on poverty and unemployment rates in other countries is from the CIA World Fact Book.

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