Ah, statistics…

Here’s another Michigan park, Fayette.

Here’re US home values, adjusted for inflation over time, in a graph from the NY Times meant to to indicate that since the late ’90s, they’ve risen precipitously. But, in Tufte-eque terms, this is misleading. While strictly speaking, the plot is probably correct, what it’s meant to convey—that we’re in a huge real estate bubble—would be attenuated if these data were plotted against household income or something similar. In other words, the cost of a home is one thing, but the dent it makes in the household income is something different. Also, if you took out one or a very few markets (e.g., NY itself), I suspect the average home cost over the last few years, and even previously in the century, might not have increased so dramatically….

BTW, can we consider these kinds of statistics just a window in time, for better or worse?

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