Housing Market: Home Prices are Up!

The latest numbers for the S&P/Case-Shiller House Price Index, just released, show an increase in home prices for twenty major cities in the United States. Both the 20-City Composite and 10-City Composite show similar trends, the first with a 1.6% increase and the second with a 1.5% increase for the month of July 2012. This numbers constitute a second year-over-year rise, following a decline in 2010 caused by the end of the Housing Stimulus package in April of that same year.

 

Life Expectancy vs. Fertility Rates Worldwide 1960-2010

click to enlarge

During the last fifty years, we have seen the gradual increase in life expectancy and the corresponding decrease in fertility rates worldwide. This is clearly the case of countries like China, India, the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Gabon, where dramatic improvements can be seen. On the other hand, countries like Russia, South Africa and Afghanistan, show moderate improvement.

It is very interesting to note, that although they have improved, a large cluster of African countries remain far from the overall trend, with lower life expectancy rates and higher fertility rates. For more information, check Google’s interactive bubble chart based on World Bank data.

 

How Does Your Country Compare to U.S. States?

These interactive maps from the Economist provide an interesting comparison between different countries and US states.

Using the criteria of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the economy of California is approximately the size of Italy, Texas the size of Russia, Florida the size of the Netherlands, and Alabama the size of Nigeria.

Using the criteria of Population, California is approximately the size of Poland, Washington  the size of Lebanon, Arizona the size of Libya, and Minnesota the size of Finland, to name a few.

 

Bleak Estimates for Corn Yields and Grain Stocks for 2012

According to the Earth Policy Institute, drought conditions have generated bleak corn yield estimates for the remainder of 2012. Corn yields for September 2012 are estimated at 123 bushels per acre, which would make it the lowest yield since 1995. Compare this yield to the highest ever value of 165 bushels per acre, which was last reached in 2009.

As a consequence, the price of corn has increased significantly. It reached a record high of $8 per bushel in the corn futures market back in July, and has fluctuated around that price since then. Another consequence is the expected fall in global grain supplies. Supplies are expected to fall to 432 million tons, or 69 days of global consumption.

Armed Conflicts in Africa

Map of armed conflicts in Africa 1997-2011

According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED), the number of civil wars across the developing world has decreased over the past fifteen years, but the levels of political violence have remained relatively stable. As the number of battles decreased, riots, protests, and violence against civilians increased. To get a better understanding of the geographical distribution of violent incidents in Africa, Francisco Dans used ACLED data to create the map displayed above. The map shows all the incidents captured by ACLED between 1997 and 2011.

The Relationship Between Riots and High Food Prices

The relationship between riots and high food prices

According to a new study released by researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, high food prices play a direct role in the rise of political instability in North Africa and the Middle East. As shown in the graph above, when the UN food price index rises above a certain level, the number of riots increases around the world. The study mentions two factors that are leading to higher food prices: investor speculation in the commodities market, and the use of corn for the production of ethanol in the US.

Poverty in the U.S.

According to data just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 15% of the population lives in poverty, that is 46.2 million of people. Those numbers are not statistically different from the 2010 estimates. In 2011 the poverty threshold for a family of four was $23,021.

The poverty rate for males decreased between 2010 and 2011 to 13.6%, and remained the same for females at 16.3%. The poverty rate for Hispanics declined between 2010 and 2011. By age, the group with the highest poverty rate was that of children under 18 at a rate of 21.9%. By region, the only region to show a significant change was the South with a decline in the poverty rate from 16.8% to 16.0%. Read more…

 

Will China Dominate the World Beer Market?

According to a report by the Kirin Institute of Food and Lifestyle, in 2010 China remained the largest consumer of beer for the eight consecutive year. China’s beer consumption increased 5.9% with respect to 2009, with a share of 24.5% of total world beer consumption.

In the world trade arena, though, China is still a small player. China’s imports of beer for 2010 amounted to only 0.56% of total world beer imports, way below the United States (37%), France (6.8%) and the UK (6.6%). China’s exports for the same year amounted to only 1.4% of total world beer exports, below Mexico (21%), the Netherlands(19%), Germany (13%), and the United States (3.4%) to name a few. However, because of the size of China’s economy, there is a huge potential for the world’s largest beer exporters to see China with a lot of optimism. Read more…

 

The Role of Social Media in Politics

The role of social media in the political arena has increased considerably as of lately. During the Democratic National Convention, last week, it was clear that social media was an important channel for disseminating information as events were taking place. According to the online site TechCrunch, first lady Michelle Obama’s speech had generated 28 thousand tweets per minute.

A report published by the Pew Research Center, based on a survey on social network site users, states that Democrats are more likely to consider the use of social media important or very important in keeping up with political news, recruiting people for their cause, discussing political issues with other people and finding other people who share their political views, compared to their Republican or Independent counterparts.