Stephen Jenkins wrote:
I was thinking that you and your blog readers might be interested in “An Economist’s Guide to Visualizing Data” by Jonathan Schwabish, in the most recent Journal of Economic Perspectives (which is the American Economic Association’s main “outreach” journal in some ways).
Ooh, I hate this so much! This seems to represent a horrible example of economists not recognizing that outsiders can help them. We do much much better in political science.
To which Jenkins wrote:
Ha! I guessed as much — hence sent it. And I’ll now admit I was surprised that JEP took the piece without getting Schwabisch to widen his reference points.
To elaborate a bit: I agree with Schwabish’s general advice (“show the data,” “reduce the clutter,” and “integrate the text and the graph”). But then he illustrates with 8 before-and-after stories in which he shows an existing graph and then gives his improvements. My problem is that I don’t like most of his “after” pictures!
In just about every case, Swabish’s advice is reasonable and his graphs improve on the originals. But I just don’t think his versions represent best practice. And, in an influential journal, you’d like to demonstrate best practice. ...
My other problem with this paper is its lack of ambition. In each case, an existing graph is redrawn with only slight changes. But what is really needed in economics, I think, is a larger sense of the importance of graphical discovery. The excitement of visualization is not conveyed in this article at all. Rather it all seems like a boring application of certain principles of graphics design.
This is a paper I've printed out and am hoping to read soon (and maybe add to my senior seminar reading list).