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Carnegie Mellon showcases world income inequality through stunning interactive map

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Data is cool, and visualizing it is even cooler, especially when it results in interesting maps such as Carnegie Mellon University’s new interactive map about income inequality around the world.

Today, the Pittsburgh, Penn.-based university announced the release of an interactive map version of “Capital in the 21st Century,” a book from economist Thomas Piketty. The map, titled “Explorable Inequality,” is based on the Wold Top Incomes Database Piketty compiled and includes tax data from 29 countries for the past 100 years. The map’s interface was created at the university’s Robotics Institute’s Create Lab by system scientist Randy Sargent and principal research programmer Christopher Bartley.

According to an official statement, the team behind this project also developed the GigaPan Time Machine in conjunction with Google. GigaPan is a “system that enables people to explore gigapixel-scale, high-resolution videos and image sequences by panning and zooming through the imagery and moving back and forth in time,” according to an official statement.

The Webby-winning project Timelapse from Time Magazine also uses this technology. Timelapse explores 30 years of Landsat imagery of Earth.

This particular map allows you to observe four main trends: What proportion of all income flows just to the country’s top 1 percent, what proportion of all income flows just to the country’s top 10 percent, how many people in the bottom 90 percent have a combined income equal to one person in the top 1 percent, and how many people in the bottom 90 percent have a combined income equal to one person in the top 10 percent.

You can pick one of the above trends, play the time-lapse animation to see the shifts over time, and even select countries the map will compare in a graph.

A few things we noticed:

  • The U.S. had relatively more distributed income during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s; today, it’s more unequal.
  • China’s income distribution is relatively even in recent times despite the country having embraced more free-market policies.
  • Australia and New Zealand have had fairly small income inequality throughout the decades tracked by this map.

Go ahead and check out the video below to learn about the map’s features before heading over to the map itself:

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