"What your global neighbors are buying" - Superb interactive graph at NY Times

From New York Times:
How people spend their discretionary income – the cash that goes to clothing, electronics, recreation, household goods, alcohol – depends a lot on where they live. People in Greece spend almost 13 times more money on clothing as they do on electronics. People living in Japan spend more on recreation than they do on clothing, electronics and household goods combined. Americans spend a lot of money on everything.
NY TImes Infographic.png
What Your Neighbors Are Buying interactive graphic at NYTimes.com


  1. Maybe I’m not reading it right…

    It’s pretty, but I think it would have been more relevant to use the per capita value to size the cubes, rather than the overall spending…

    I know this is shown with the color code, but it’s not quite as striking… It’s hard to establish a comparison about relative spending with this way of showing it…


  2. Sorry, but this was on digg a few days ago and it was pointed out what a bad map this is.

    a) A lot of the countries are the same colour, making it hard to differenciate between spending at a glance

    b) It’s nothing you can’t find out by estimating GDP and population figures.

  3. It looks like the U.S. has the same per capita spending as the U.K., France, the Netherlands, and probably a few other countries, within the limited precision of this color coding.

  4. As an Australian living in the US of A… you guys spend like NUTS. It’s difficult to get used to. The majority of you seem to have confused “want” with need. It drives me insane, and I hold it against most of you bitterly.

    So, as far as spending on consumer products: that is the heart of the problem as far as I see it. “Need a bigger car, need a better video card, need new shoes…” Bullsh*t you do. Go live in a remote village of Asia or Africa for a few months and then we’ll talk.

    As for the spending that falls outside the “consumer” basket…
    Admittedly, I live in a fairly pricey area (not by my choice), but I spend 2 and a half times as much on rent for my room as I did in Aus (room is the same size)and twice as much a week on food (appetite hasn’t increased, and I am cooking many of the same dishes). I primarily blame the market for this one… well, those who influence it.

    I will give you one thing, though: Booze and smokes are both way cheaper. If it weren’t for that, I might just pack up and leave =P

  5. Banksynergy: Thanks for that, mate. I wonder if we (Yanks) say “need” instead of “want” because “want” is perceived as selfish or childish. When a person says they “need” something that they really only want, it might indicate that they intend to get it. Whereas when they say they “want” something, they are expressing approval rather than desire and intent.

    Do Australians really make a careful distinction between the two words in everyday conversation?

    And what about the word “like”, which in some places means “want”. Saying “I like xyz” means “I want some xyz, right now”. E.g. in Hawaii.

  6. All this map shows is the dollars spent per capita. Of course the rich countries are going to spend more money. I think in terms of comparison it would be interesting to compare % of income spent on the various luxuries. Asia still has a lot of smokers and they barely register on the “Alcohol and Tobacco” chart. Misleading, as their alcohol and tobacco is far cheaper than ours, and thus their spending is way down. This however is no indication that we’re a bunch of drunken smokers and they aren’t.

  7. Does anyone know what they are using to create those charts? I think NYT had a similar one earlier in the year depicting votes or something. It’s kind of a cool display, I would like to use it for some work.

  8. Doesn’t this really just demonstrate the global distribution of wealth? With minor exceptions, the proportions for most of the countries are pretty consistent across all categories. The size of the boxes change, but their relative proportions are pretty similar. My conclusion: we have more disposable income in the “developed world” than the rest. Shocking.

  9. Mojave, not a chance. If the person still has a car, sleeps in their own room, etc, they’re not living paycheck to paycheck.

  10. DCulbertson, I don’t agree. Paycheck-to-paycheck can mean “just barely keeping up with the payments on the car, credit card, student loan, and mortgage/rent”.

    It’s called “wage slavery”.

  11. The car payment and the room rent are due. That’s paycheck to paycheck.

    You own the house? The mortgage payment and the car insurance are due. That’s paycheck to paycheck.

    Do you even have a job?

  12. Lol – you gotta love the countries where people spend more on alcohol/tobacco than they do on clothing/footwear (Ireland, Switzerland, Poland). Seems about right…

  13. FWIW I asked Hannah at NYT about what she used for the graphic and her reply was Illustrator and Flash. Oh yeah, and people spend hekka $$s on stuff … now off to buy another comic I saw on BoingBoing.

  14. Razzbar: It sure seems like it to me, but maybe we just don’t say we need or want things quite as often.

    I think “I’d like/like to get [item]” is probably the most common way of expressing desire for a product in Aus. Of course, though, it’s not like I’ve done a study on it or anything.

    Yours is an interesting idea on why you guys say “want”. Although we technically speak the same language, I have come across many little variations in terminology that can change the meaning of statements completely. It’s almost easier living somewhere with a different language… at least then you know there are different words for things. Here, there are a lot of the same words, and it can take a long time for it to become apparent that the meanings might be different.

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