Congratulations to the New York Times on their wonderful graphical feature, “How Class Works,” from yesterday’s paper. Here’s an example of a feature that works better online than it does in print.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’m horrendously over-educated and woefully underpaid. With two graduate degrees, I have more education than 97 percent of Americans. There are just as many adult Americans with less than a 4th grade education as there are Americans with a master’s degree or higher.
My favorite graphic has to be this one, showing the relationship between education and income level, which can then be broken down further by career type. Consider, for example, the two opposite extremes of the career spectrum. First, farming:
Normally I dismiss this sort of three-dimensional graphic as pointless eye-candy, but in this case, the third dimension is actually being used informatively. Although one column is obscured by the towering data point at the bottom of the chart, even this omission tells us something, since it shows us quite clearly how farm workers are at the bottom of the economic/educational barrel. Next take a look at the other end of the scale:
Now if lawyers have the equivalent education to lil’ ol’ me, how come I’m not getting paid like them? There’s not room on the chart to show how overpaid lawyers are! And to think … I was very close to going to law school — I took the LSAT, I had the applications in hand, but at the last minute, I decided to go to English grad school instead. If only I hadn’t changed my mind, six-figure salaries and three-figure hourly work-weeks could have been mine! This chart also shows that if you’re interested in a legal profession but not law school, you’re better off with a 2-year degree than a 4-year degree.
Never have I had a clearer demonstration that I’m not nearly greedy enough. Anyway, the whole feature is tremendously enlightening. For my readers, who likely are almost as overeducated (but hopefully not as underpaid) as me, it’s a good lesson in the success of Wal-Mart. It’s not just that millions of Americans have no taste, it’s that they couldn’t afford it if they did.