Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Percent Are You?

See discussion after the interactive...

(Note: If the chart goes blank it means that you have hit a group that is too small to create a valid distribution for. Just choose different attributes to continue.)

Though interest in the "99% movement" seems to have subsided (see Google Trends below), I have been fascinated by the calculators it spawned.

First there was this simple calculator from the Wall Street Journal (clicking the image takes you to the calculator at

This is very easy to use, but it pertains to "tax-filing units" which aren't necessarily individuals, and it doesn't allow for any adjustments to account for things like age, sex, race, education, and geography which are known to effect income distribution.

Then we got this wonderful interactive infographic from the New York Times (clicking the image takes you to the calculator at

If you enter a household income it allows you to select from 344 geographic areas (including the entire US) using a map, and then shows the percentile of the given income plus the full income distribution. However, this pertains to households and, while it does let you adjust for geography (very elegantly), it doesn't allow for adjustments for age, sex, etc.

I just came across, which pools 5 years of data and uses Google Maps to show media household income at the census tract level. Very cool! But it is based on households, not individuals and doesn't show the whole income distribution or allow for any demographic adjustments.

However, I wanted to be able to compare myself to other individuals like myself. Not tax-filing units or households, but individuals. That means adjustments for the age, sex, race, education, and geography of individuals. The US Census Bureau's American Community Survey has the data for this kind of comparison, and I've been very curious to try out Tableau's free public offering

I used the two to come up with the interactive above, based on 2011 data (the most recent year available) for individuals with earnings (and there were about 157M of us). According to the ACS documentation:

"Earnings are defined as the sum of wage or salary income and net income from self-employment. Earnings represent the amount of income received regularly for people 16 years old and over before deductions for personal income taxes, Social Security, bond purchases, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. An individual with earnings is one who has either wage/salary income or self-employment income, or both."

While my interactive doesn't have a map, it does allow you to adjust for the age, sex, race, education, and geography of individuals.