10 standout charts from 2017

A sampling of data visualizations from among the hundreds we published last year

Jan 17, 2018

In the course of covering research on topics ranging from monetary policy and health care to fake news and superstition, Chicago Booth Review published hundreds of charts, infographics, and other pieces of data visualization in 2017. We aspired to make each of them a useful tool for understanding the findings of economics, behavioral science, accounting, and other business research—but also to make them visually appealing, even beautiful. And though data are not sentimental, we couldn't help looking back over the year and picking out a handful of our favorites. Below are 10 of our best charts from last year, in the order in which they were published. 

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Ancestry can pave the way for foreign investment


Fed influence wanes over the long term


Market returns by presidential term


Markets hate complex headlines


Universities' costs and graduate earnings


A global measure of uncertain economic times


A prototypical executive team’s stakes


Credit shocks and recessions


The top 1 percent, by income group


US cities' optimal levels of food waste


Ancestry can pave the way for foreign investment

Using 130 years of data on migrations to the United States, a team of researchers explores how new arrivals to the US bring with them the potential for future investment from their home countries.

Click the map to view it in high resolution

Have central bankers lost their power?

The Fed’s influence over interest rates is stronger in the short run but weaker as rates extend to months or years, according to research by Chicago Booth’s Eugene F. Fama. The charts here show the rates at different lengths of time—from one month to 10 years—as a spread over the fed funds target rate. Putting every chart on the same scale tells the story: in the short run, the spread is not especially volatile, but in the long run, it is much more so.

Fed influence wanes over the long term
The commercial paper rate stays fairly close to the fed funds target rate. But once rates extend to months, as with Treasury bills, or years, as with government bonds, the Fed’s target rate holds less sway.

Click the buttons below to see how different securities deviate from the Fed's target rate.

Short Term

Medium Term

Long Term

Fama, 2013; Federal Reserve Economic Database

Why stock returns under Trump might disappoint investors

Economic researchers marvel at what they have termed the Presidential Puzzle—going back to the 1920s, average stock market returns under Democratic presidents have been markedly higher than under Republican ones. This chart, based on research by Chicago Booth’s Lubos Pastor and Pietro Veronesi, looks at returns compared with the 3-month Treasury bill rate. The researchers suggest that voters’ economic risk aversion plays a significant role in determining which party wins the presidency.

‘Sell!’ ‘Buy!’ Markets hate complex headlines

Less is more when it comes to the length of headlines, according to research by Chicago Booth PhD graduate Tarik Umar, now at Rice University. Using email alerts from a popular website for investors, the research suggests that the shortest headlines get the most clicks, and longer headlines produce diminishing results.

Markets hate complex headlines

The cost of an engineering degree . . . to the college, not the student

As US college tuition soars, students, parents, and policy makers are pressuring universities to demonstrate the value of a college degree. But whatever the return on investment for students, gauging the ROI on taxpayers’ investment in higher education requires measuring not just salaries, but the cost to schools of educating students. Research by Yale’s Joseph G. Altonji and Chicago Booth’s Seth Zimmerman helps identify the typical costs and outcomes for different majors, which could give additional guidance to public universities that are weighing how to maximize their budgets.

A global measure of uncertain economic times

Uncertainty about a nation’s economic policies can influence both politics and financial markets, and the effects often spread beyond the country’s borders. Building on his research with Northwestern’s Scott R. Baker and Stanford’s Nick Bloom measuring policy uncertainty in the world’s major economies, Chicago Booth’s Steven J. Davis has constructed an index that combines data from 18 countries to provide a global measurement of uncertainty from 1997 to present.

How can you divide something that doesn’t exist?

How should a start-up's founders divide equity in the company? One starting point is to look at what's typical among other start-ups, which is what Chicago Booth's Waverly Deutsch did using data collected by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson of the Foundry Group and published on their blog, Ask the VC.

A prototypical executive team’s stakes

A prototypical executive team’s stakes

Credit shocks boost economies, but beware the fall

Princeton’s Atif Mian, Princeton PhD candidate Emil Verner, and Chicago Booth’s Amir Sufi studied the rollback of banking regulations in the 1980s, when states had the latitude to control the speed of deregulation. Those that moved quickly experienced the greatest benefits as wages and employment rose, GDP expanded, and house prices climbed. But they also later saw the steepest declines in those same metrics when the United States fell into recession in 1990–91.

Where recession hit harder
When the US fell into recession in 1990–91, many of the states that were quicker to roll back banking regulations during the ’80s fared worse by these economic measures:

Changes in US states’ economies, 1989–92

Note: Research includes Washington, DC, but excludes Delaware and South Dakota, which enacted special laws to lure banks’ credit-card business. Real GDP chart excludes Alaska.

Mian et al., 2017

Never mind the 1 percent. Let's talk about the 0.01 percent.

The 1 percent, it turns out, have their own 1 percent. The share of total US income that goes to the top 0.01 percent of earners has increased from 0.5 percent in 1973 to 5 percent in 2015. The income threshold for inclusion in the top 0.1 percent of earners in 2015 was $1.6 million—just over a fifth of the $7.5 million needed to reach the top 0.01 percent.

The top 1% divided into four groups . . .

. . . by income
US households in 2015, excluding capital gains

Piketty and Saez, 2016

The top 1% divided into four groups . . .

. . . by income
US households in 2015, excluding capital gains

Piketty and Saez, 2016

To reduce food waste, build more grocery stores

To cut down on wasted food, the UN advises people to plan meals, eat the food already in their fridges before buying more, and compost food scraps. But research by Chicago Booth’s Elena Belavina suggests policy makers should focus less on consumer advice and more on urban planning. Her research finds that many cities could significantly reduce food waste by increasing grocery store density.

US cities' optimal levels of food waste
Hover over each city below to see the number of stores that would maximize the effectiveness of food consumption, as well as the point at which more stores would no longer reduce food waste. Note: bubble size corresponds to population density.