Dividing household chores chart

How to Divide Household Chores Fairly

I was just pulling up to the departures gate at LAX, where I was catching an early morning flight to my one-day business meeting up in Seattle, when I got the following text from my husband, Seth: Some guy left his jacket and beer bottle on our lawn.

Weird. Gross. And, more importantly, what am I supposed to do about it from the road?

When I returned home 16 hours later and long after the sun had gone down, I’d forgotten about the text until I pulled into my driveway, and there they were sitting in the dark — some guy’s jacket and beer bottle on our lawn. Seriously? I began to seethe. As I unlocked the front door, I quickly tried to work out why.

I was reminded of the many girlfriends who had described “the text” and its spiritual cousin, “the email forward,” as trigger issues in their marriages — a correspondence comes through to both you and your partner from your child’s school, coach, music teacher, doctor’s office or the DMV, and your partner forwards it to you. The implication: I don’t have time to handle this — it’s on you.

That night, standing in the doorway to our bedroom, I understood that my husband expected me to put down my carry-on, grab a trash bag and a pair of rubber gloves, walk outside, pick up the jacket and beer bottle, throw them into the bag, walk the whole thing to the bin in the alley and return home. When I did just that, I made note of how long it took me to do this: 12 minutes. Of my time. That I’ll never get back. I briefly considered these 12 minutes multiplied by thousands of “this is on you” instances required to get through each of my days and began to understand acutely why so many women are running against the clock from the moment we wake up.

What might not be so clear, because it wasn’t to me that night, is: Why was this on me?

Why domestic work falls to women

The answer came to me 12 minutes later when I returned to our bedroom after cleaning up the mess in the front yard, still wearing rubber gloves: Seth was not valuing my time equally to his.

In my day job, I’m a Harvard-trained lawyer and mediator who works with families. But at my own home, I realized, I wasn’t cutting a very good deal for myself. Like so many women — whether they work outside the home or not — I was picking up more than my fair share of the slack in the running of our household. In heterosexual partnerships, women still do the bulk of childcare and domestic work — the National Survey of Families and Households showed that as recently as 2010, married mothers like myself and many of my friends did about 1.9 times the housework of married fathers.

It turned out that my husband (a good guy and progressive in many aspects of our life together — really!) took on less housework after our kids came along, just as a 2015 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family showed is common. I determined to find out why even men like him assume that domestic responsibilities should be so unevenly stacked. In my interviews and conversations on this topic over the last several years with more than 500 people — women and men in straight and same-sex relationships and from all U. S. Census categories in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomic status — overwhelmingly expressed a related idea that contributes to the same outcome: the notion that men’s time is finite and women’s time is infinite. And while women’s time is known to be treated as less valuable in the workplace (see the ongoing battle to achieve equal pay), according to my research, this mental discrepancy where men’s time is guarded as a finite resource (like diamonds) and women’s time is abundant (like sand) can feel even more stark at home and after kids.

So what’s the solution? In an attempt to make visible all the invisible and often unacknowledged work it takes to run a family, I created a document I proudly called the “Sh-t I Do List” that included every single thing I did day-to-day with a quantifiable time component. Tallying every brain-zapping, time-sucking detail of my domestic responsibilities was no small feat, but when I was finished — with the help of women all over the country who wrote in with their own list items — I’d enumerated and categorized 100 household tasks with 20 subtasks that totaled over 1,000 items of invisible work (from laundry to pet care to meal prep to birthday presents) that kept our happy home running smoothly.

When I sent my master list to Seth one triumphant afternoon, expecting a pat on the back (or at least a little recognition for a job well done), he’d texted me back a single emoji: 🙈.

Not even the courtesy of the full trio. Regardless, I got the message — he didn’t want to see, hear or speak of it.

My husband is a smart, caring guy. So why was it so hard for him to understand and appreciate how much extra work I was doing to benefit our family and the home — and the eventual burnout effect it was likely to have on me? Then it hit me: lists alone don’t work; but systems do.

How I fostered more fairness at home

For more than a decade, I’ve consulted with hundreds of families in my professional life by providing my expertise in organizational-management strategy. What if I applied these strategies in my own house by creating a new system in which every task that benefits our home is not only named and counted but also explicitly defined and specifically assigned?

I began to fantasize about what my life and the lives of all of my friends would look like if — in partnership with our spouses — we brought systematic function to what was currently a sh-t show of family dysfunction. I couldn’t think of a couple out there who wouldn’t benefit from a practical plan of action to optimize productivity and efficiency, as well as a new consciousness and language for thinking and talking about domestic life.

The result is a system I termed Fair Play, a figurative game played with your partner, where each partner holds certain “cards” that correspond to domestic tasks. Here are my four easy-to-follow rules that set you up to play.

Rule #1: All time is created equal.

Both partners need to reframe how you value time, and then commit to the goal of rebalancing the hours that domestic work requires between the two of you. The reality is that many straight couples, the mental load will continue to fall on the female partner as the list-maker/planner/household manager until both recognize that time is a limited commodity. You both only have 24 hours in a day. Only when you both believe that your time is equally valuable will the division of labor shift toward parity in your relationship.

Rule #2: Reclaim your right to be interesting.

When your time and your mind become fully focused on the tasks required to run a household, it’s easy to feel like your personal passions aren’t priorities. Both partners deserve to reclaim or discover the interests that make you each uniquely you, beyond your roles as wonderful parents and partners. And Fair Play requires you both to demand time and mental space to explore this right — and to honor that right for each other.

Rule #3: Start where you are now.

You cannot get to where you want to go without first understanding: Who am I? Who am I really in a relationship with? And what is my specific intention for engaging my partner in renegotiating the household workload? Ask yourself: Am I seeking more acknowledgment of everything I do for us? More efficiency so I can have more time for myself? Less resentment and a greater sense of fairness? When you have a clear sense of what you want, you’re more likely to get it. Start the conversation by laying it all out to your partner.

Rule #4: Establish your values and standards.

Take stock of your domestic ecosystem and choose what you want to do in service of the home based on what’s most valuable to you and your partner. Just because you’re in the habit of doing a task doesn’t mean it’s a task that absolutely needs to be done. Maybe you value cooking a homemade breakfast for your child each morning — or maybe, when you and your partner consider what’s most important to you, you decide you’d rather have a few minutes in bed to check in before you start the day, and fruit and yogurt to-go are perfectly fine. After you and your partner determine what “cards” — tasks that must be done because they hold value to your family — are in play, you must mutually agree on a reasonable standard for how those tasks are handled. It’s not enough for your spouse to say he’ll be in charge of the “baseball” card — he has to pack the sports bag with all the necessary gear and snacks, arrange for pick-up and drop-off from practice, make sure all the games are on the family calendar and then show up on the right field at the right time. The more you invest in unpacking the details, the more you will be rewarded.

It didn’t happen overnight, but starting with Rule #1, attitudes started to shift within our home. After the drunk guy’s jacket incident, my husband began to notice and appreciate that we both have the same number of minutes in a day. (The “All Time Is Created Equal” sign that I posted on the bathroom mirror did help to hammer home the point.) It hasn’t always been easy; a shift in thinking takes deliberate effort. Whenever Seth and I would revert to our old, familiar dialogue like, “I don’t have time… so, can you?” or “I don’t have time either, but I guess this is on me,” I’d attempt to reframe the conversation with words that honor and respect how we each choose to spend our finite time. I finally understood that how I’d spent those particular 12 minutes picking up the drunk guy’s jacket and beer bottle was really irrelevant. I wasn’t interested in keeping a minute-by-minute scorecard with my husband; I simply wanted both of us to begin to value our time equally — and to act accordingly.

From FAIR PLAY by Eve Rodsky, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright (c) 2019 by by Unicorn Space, LLC.

Contact us at [email protected].

How to split up chores fairly with your spouse or roommate : Life Kit : NPR

How to split up chores fairly with your spouse or roommate : Life Kit In four steps, experts Eve Rodsky and Jacqueline Misla explain how to fairly split domestic work with a partner or roommate. Don't forget to print out the handy zine!

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Stuck doing all the household chores? This practical guide can help

Malaka Gharib/NPR

Malaka Gharib/NPR

A text message about blueberries a few years ago nearly ended Eve Rodsky's marriage. It came from her husband. He was upset she hadn't picked up any blueberries from the grocery store. And she burst into angry tears.

This was supposed to be her afternoon off, recalled Rodsky in her 2019 book, Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live). Instead, she was in her car, running errands. The idea that she now had to pick up blueberries, she said, sent her over the edge.

What Rodsky was experiencing was an unfair division of household labor, which she says made her feel a sense of "seething resentment" toward her husband.

And she's not alone. In many households, one person shoulders the brunt of the chores and childcare – and that's often the woman. In fact, a 2020 Gallup Poll of more than 3,000 American heterosexual couples found that women handle the majority of the domestic workload, including doing the laundry, cleaning and cooking. And for many women, the workload has only worsened in the pandemic.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Rodsky, an attorney and author, says it's possible to divide domestic tasks fairly, which can help reduce stress at home and give back precious time to each member of the household. And it starts with candid conversations about our domestic contributions and a reevaluation of what matters in your home.

She and Jacqueline Misla, a lifestyle coach and co-host of Curious Fox, a love and relationship podcast, share a practical guide on how to divvy up, prioritize and assign chores.

1. List every chore and errand

The first thing you want to do, says Rodsky, is list out each and every task required to manage the home. It will help each member of the household understand the full extent of responsibilities – and hopefully encourage them to take measures to balance the workload.

Malaka Gharib/NPR

Set aside an hour or two to draw up the list. Do it in a place that's easy for everyone to see and access: a shared notes app, a spreadsheet or a whiteboard, for example. Include essential tasks like washing dishes or taking the kids to school and errands like grocery shopping or picking up the dry cleaning. Don't forget to add tasks that might be less visible, such as coordinating carpools or writing thank you cards. (Rodsky actually developed a resource called Fair Play, a set of 100 cards printed with various household tasks, to help people with this exercise.)

2. Narrow down the list

Once you have those tasks in front of you, discuss each item with your partner or your housemate.

Malaka Gharib/NPR

  1. Go through the list and note who's been typically responsible for each task. You might be surprised. Your partner, for example, may be doing more chores than you expected. Or they might find you've been doing the lion's share of the labor. Seeing the breakdown of the domestic workload can provide you with a starting point for what's working and what might need to change.
  2. Create a shortlist of essential duties. Prioritize the must-do chores – that includes everyday tasks like taking out the trash and washing the dishes — and activities that are important to your household, says Rodsky, such as date nights or a redecorating project you've been meaning to finish.
  3. Cut unnecessary tasks. Lighten the workload by removing any chores from the list that don't make sense to your household. Maybe you and your partner have been taking the time to make the bed every day, when neither one of you really cares about that unless you have company. Or perhaps you and your roommates constantly bicker about whose turn it is to deep clean the bathroom. In that case, you might consider pooling your resources together to hire a cleaner every few months.
  4. Set clear expectations of how and when a task should be done. Go through your pared-down list and come to a consensus with your partner or roommate about what each task means in your household. Take mopping the floor for example – should that be done on a weekly or a monthly basis? Would it be OK to use something like a Swiffer, or is a traditional mop and bucket strongly preferred by a member of the household? This exercise can help get everyone on the same page, says Misla, and avert conflict around how chores are executed down the line.

From here, stay flexible. Your list of essential chores are bound to change depending on the needs of your household – and that's OK, says Misla. "Give yourself some space to let the rules evolve. Check in with each other and say: Is this still working for us? If not, what do we need to change?"

3. Assign the tasks

When it comes to splitting up the housework, says Misla, "nothing is ever equal. How many dishes done equals laundry folded? How many trips with the kid to the dentist equals checkups to the car?"

While you may not be able to divide the chores 50-50, you can try to aim for a workload that feels fair to each member of the household. Here are some helpful tips on how to assign chores:

Malaka Gharib/NPR

  • Own the tasks you love. If you have chores and workflows in place that are already working for you and your partner or roommate, don't worry about reassigning them, says Rodsky. Continue doing the tasks that bring you joy, whether it's cooking dinner or folding the laundry while watching Netflix. 

Malaka Gharib/NPR

  • Share the load on burdensome tasks. No one should have to be responsible for one task forever, especially if it's unpleasant. Find a way to divvy up the most time-consuming or least-favorite tasks like nighttime baby care or picking up dog poop in the backyard. That could mean taking turns on the task or agreeing to do that chore together.
  • Consider your housemate or partner's circumstances for the week. Are this week's conference calls completely at odds with your carpool schedule? Does your roommate need a bit of a break because they have friends in town? Does one of you need some extra time this week to crank out thank you notes for those housewarming gifts? Set regular check-in times to walk through your weekly schedule and reassign chores and duties where necessary, says Rodsky. 

4. Be fully responsible for your duties

Lastly – if you're in charge of a household chore, take full ownership of it, says Rodsky. Don't expect your partner or roommate to pick up the slack if you can't complete the task. It's your responsibility to account for what you need. Your partner and household are depending on you.

Malaka Gharib/NPR

If it's your turn to cook dinner, for example, account for the time you will need to buy the ingredients, prep and cook. Avoid stealing your partner's time with one-off or last-minute duties they haven't accounted for, like running to the store for a forgotten ingredient or chopping vegetables.

And if it's your partner's turn to cook dinner – let them do it! Resist the urge to micromanage the way they season meat or the time they take to make it. Use your extra time and energy to focus on something else — whether it's another task or just relaxing.

When everyone does their part to keep the household running smoothly, you can free up more time to be "consistently interested in your own life," says Rodsky — which is exactly the goal of a balanced domestic workload.

Print out this zine on how to divvy up domestic chores

You can print out a mini-book — or zine — to help you Fold it using these directions (courtesy of The Oregonian). Use it as a tool as you discuss the division of household responsibilities with your household.

  • Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photograph by Becky Harlan/NPR

  • Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photograph by Becky Harlan/NPR

  • Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photograph by Becky Harlan/NPR

  • Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photograph by Becky Harlan/NPR

  • Zine by Malaka Gharib/NPR; Photograph by Becky Harlan/NPR

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The audio portion of this episode was produced by Michelle Aslam. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at [email protected].

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Household chores and distribution of family responsibilities

January 01, 2012, 12:53

Authors: prof. N.I. Kozlov and Alexander Shemyakin

Film "Family Jewel"

The basis of a friendly family is a competent distribution of roles, rights and duties. How is that?

Is it normal if the woman does all the household chores and the man only watches TV? Or is it right if they do everything together and equally: a husband and his wife cook food, wash floors and wash clothes? Or maybe all household chores should be on the husband, and the wife at this time takes care of herself, as in modern China? There is no one right answer for everyone here. The answers to this question largely depend on how you were brought up, what kind of environment you have, and what kind of relationships you have in your family. For example, there is a WE family and there is a I + I family, and in these different families the issue of the distribution of household chores and responsibilities is solved in their own way. In the WE family, the one who can and knows more has more responsibilities: he is happy to do it. In the I + I family, the one who is more interested in relationships, who is more dependent and who the other can load to a greater extent has a large family load ...

At the same time, it is wrong to think that household chores are just a burden: it is also a source of pride and great opportunities. The one who does little in the family can usually influence little. And the one who invests more in the family, the one in the family has more opportunities to influence, has more rights.

Elementary: whoever takes care of a child, he brings him up in his own way, for himself.

The three main guidelines for the distribution of family responsibilities are 1) individual preferences (who wants what he wants more), 2) skills and abilities (whoever knows how to do what is better, he does it, and 3) benefit (we will entrust the child in the family with something which will be more useful for him to master for his future adult life). nine0003

Individual preference is the simplest and most obvious. For example, someone likes washing dishes more than taking out the trash. And someone can easily grab this garbage on the way to work. It’s hard for a wife to go to the market for heavy purchases, but it’s fun for a man to warm up: he likes it and it’s useful.

At the same time, it has historically developed that men in the family, in principle, are more involved in earning money, while women are more involved in housekeeping. There is a certain sense in this: men and women differ from each other not only in appearance, but also in character and preferences. It is easier, more pleasant and more interesting for men to work and earn money. Women - raising children and establishing comfort. If that's the case for you, then you're all set. If something does not suit you in this distribution of roles, you can agree on a different distribution of tasks and responsibilities. nine0003

How to start discussing all these questions? Take the Family Agreement Questionnaire, it will be of great help to you. The questionnaire will contain questions not only on the distribution of family responsibilities, but also on how to better build relationships, how to resolve various difficult and controversial issues - and how we can live even more friendly.

And one more thing: perhaps in family duties we will be able to discern not only duties, but also pleasures, and also remember for whom you perform them? First, for yourself. You sweep the floor to keep your feet comfortable. You earn money to spend on your own desires. Secondly, no one took you into slavery, no one points a gun at you and does not force you to do something for the benefit of your enemies. You fulfill your duties for your loved ones, near and dear people with whom you live. After all, any household chores are also a manifestation of love, but not at a “high”, but at a simple, everyday level. nine0003

If you remind your husband (or wife) about some family matters, it is better to do it with a background of support. How? It's simple! For example, if your partner is responsible for vacuuming, then you can put a piece of paper on the “tool of labor” itself - a vacuum cleaner - with the words: “I love you! Thank you for the cleanliness that will soon be in our house! Admire and create a positive mood, even before you or your partner has started to do anything. After all, any duties become unloved when we present them as a long and tedious process. nine0003

Compare those who do not like to wash dishes and do. The former, when they think about this activity, see a mountain of dirty dishes that they have to deal with. The second, just approaching the sink, imagine how clean and beautiful all these plates are on the shelf. The whole point is in an attractive and motivating picture, form it for yourself and your partner.

Well, it's always good to reward yourself for small and big domestic deeds. Most often, we expect praise and pleasant feedback from our partner. Yes, it is really important that the “soulmate” notices our efforts. But you also need to please yourself. Do not expect positive from others, but create a holiday yourself and invite others to it. What do we do for the holidays? We give cards, nice words and goodies to each other. Celebrate even the smallest accomplishments! For example, “we have a cake today because I cleaned the apartment!”. Or write a list of reasons to celebrate - everyday things that you should do. And mark each of them with a tick and pleasant prizes. To some, this method will seem too simple and playful, not serious, but maybe it is more important in a family to be happy than very serious? nine0003

And if a man takes on the distribution of household chores and duties, then the most convenient thing for him is to make a responsibility matrix, where there will be a list of all household duties - and it is indicated who is involved in these matters (there is a letter U) and who is responsible for this ( stands for the letter O). You can see how such a matrix looks like, and if you want to make your own according to the model, download it and edit it to fit your tasks. I wish you success!

  • Power in the family
  • Family rules
  • Family responsibilities
  • Author N.I. Kozlov
  • Household duties

Comments (10):

Alina, December 15, 2014, 9:54 pm

Thank you very much! A very interesting idea that will help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

alexenko pavel, November 24, 2015, 00:06 am

Ideal and harmonious distribution of roles and responsibilities, the woman does household chores, the man does public affairs...



Guest, July 15, 2019, 5:20 pm

For whom is ideal and harmonious?



Guest, December 01, 2020, 20:36

For a man, of course. He is purely responsible for the vector of development))))

Guest, August 26, 2016, 10:25

It seems that the matrix is ​​made for a family where the wife does not work. Because if you try to follow it in conditions where both spouses work the same way and bring the same income, the wife will be very tired and constantly fail. For some reason, the purchase of food (daily) is assigned to the wife, although the authors themselves write that gravity is contraindicated for a woman (and liquid products run out daily and weigh a lot). I didn't like this article. She is one-sided. nine0003



Guest, December 09, 2018, 11:11 PM

Completely agree. It turns out that a woman will invest twice as much.

Guest, February 09, 2019, 03:18 PM

Yes, the balance is clearly upset

Guest, April 26, 2019, 03:46 PM

I like that there is a matrix - distribution of responsibilities, let everyone do it for yourself :) All success :)

Guest, July 20, 2017, 09:22

Thank you for the matrix. nine0003

Guest, Jan 09, 2021 9:33 PM

The matrix is ​​interesting. Haven't really looked into it, but I like the idea. According to the psychologist (I agree with him), relationships consist of different levels: contractual (distribution of duties), emotional (praise, etc.), intimate (probably no explanation is required). The contractual level is usually allowed before the birth of children, we did not succeed. Behind myself I often noticed that I hold evil, because my wife does not itch in certain matters. Seeing the matrix, I understand that by correctly distributing and coordinating (!) responsibilities, mutual claims will decrease by a multiple. And so, all happiness, we are in the process. nine0003

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how to recognize that a chart is lying — What to read on vc.ru

Why the same data on charts can tell completely different stories and be misleading - in an excerpt from the book “Complete nonsense! Skepticism in the world of big data” from MIF publishing house. nine0003


Data visualization can be misleading, both intentionally and accidentally. Luckily, most of these tricks are easy to spot if you know where to look.

Many charts, including bar and scatter charts, use the horizontal and vertical axes to position data to define the boundaries of numeric values. Always look at the axes when you see a chart that has them.

Designers use a number of tricks to manipulate axes on a chart. In 2016, columnist Professor Andrew Potter caused a sensation with his article for the Canadian news magazine Maclean's. In it, the author stated that many of the Canadian city of Quebec's problems can be boiled down to the fact that "compared to the rest of the country, Quebec is an almost pathologically alienated and mistrustful community, lacking many of the basic forms of social capital that the rest of Canadians take for granted. " . In an attempt to corroborate Potter's claim, the magazine then published the following chart:0003

On the face of it, the diagram seems to provide solid support for Potter's claim. Confidence bars in Quebec are much lower than in the rest of Canada. But wait and take a look at the vertical (y) axis. The bars don't go all the way to zero, only 35, 45, and 50, respectively. By cutting the Quebec columns from the bottom, the designer visually increased the difference between this province and the rest of the country.

If the lines had gone to zero, the diagram would have given a different impression:

In the new chart, we see that the level of trust in Quebec is indeed slightly lower, but now we have a more accurate impression of the differences. It was this visualization that needed to be published. After readers noticed the axis manipulation in the original diagram and complained, Maclean's published it in a corrected form. nine0003

A bar chart without an obvious axis can be misleading. Here is an example of what was posted on Instagram* during the election campaign of Hillary Clinton:

Here the columns go from left to right, not from bottom to top. This is appropriate because each of the bands shows a category for which there is no natural order other than a numerical expression, such as year, age, income level. What is not justified is the disproportion of the bands to the proportions they represent. The length of the first four is relatively correct and very close to the declared full length of the segment from left to right. The last two are substantially longer than they should be, given the numbers they illustrate. nine0003

The lane for white women is marked 75%, although it stretches 78% of the way to the right. The Asian women's strip is even more misleading. It's 84% ​​signed but stretched out 90% on its way to the right edge. As a result, perceived differences between the earnings of non-ethnic women and those of white and Asian women are exaggerated. We can read the numbers, but we get the impressions by perceiving the visual length of the stripes.

While in a histogram (bar chart) the bars must start at zero, in a line chart it is not necessary to include zero in the axis of the dependent variable. The line chart below illustrates how much since 19In the 1970s, the proportion of families where both parents worked increased in the state of California. Like the original Québec confidence graph, it uses a vertical axis that does not drop to zero.

What's the difference? Why does the vertical axis in a bar chart always have to start at zero, while in a line chart it doesn't? The two visual formats tell different stories. By design, a bar chart illustrates the absolute values ​​of the variables in each category, while a line chart focuses on how one variable changes as another changes. nine0003

In fact, line graphs can sometimes be misleading precisely because their vertical axis goes to zero. One infamous example, titled "The Only Global Warming Chart You Need From Now On", was created by Stephen Hayward for the Powerline blog and went viral after the National Review posted it on Twitter in late 2015. Explaining his schedule, Hayward wrote: “What, is it not so scary now? In fact, you hardly notice the warming.” nine0003

This is stupid. The absolute temperature is irrelevant to the situation. There is no point in zooming in to such an extent that any changes are erased. If we want to draw conclusions about how much the climate is changing, we need a scale similar to the following graph.

The slyness of the graphic prepared for the Powerline blog is that Hayward chose a graphic representation that does not match the story he is telling. Hayward claims to be writing about the change (or lack thereof) of temperature on Earth. However, instead of choosing a graph that would show the changes, he purposefully used a graph that hides them and reflects the absolute values. nine0003

We need to be even more careful when the chart has two vertical axes with different scales. By selectively scaling the axes that are related to each other, designers can make the data tell almost any story. For example, a 2015 study in a second-rate journal attempted to resurrect a long-debunked conspiracy theory linking autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to a combination vaccine. As evidence, a graph was given that looked like the one shown below. nine0003

Even if we are willing to put aside the serious problems with sampling and data analysis, what conclusions are we going to have to draw from the relationship this graph points to? At first glance, the RAS line follows the line of vaccines rather closely. But look at the axes. The frequency of autism spectrum disorders is marked on a scale from 0 to 0.6%. Vaccination coverage is targeted on a scale of 86 to 95%. Thus, during this period we see a large increase in the incidence of autism spectrum disorders, almost 10 times from 2000 to 2007, but very little change in vaccination coverage. This becomes clear if we correct the scale. We don't need to show both trends on the same scale, but we do need to make sure both axes include zero. nine0003

Looking at the data in this way, it is clear that relatively small changes in vaccination coverage are unlikely to cause relatively large changes in ASD levels.

Here is another example from a medical article in an obscure scientific journal. With this chart, the authors attempt to illustrate the temporal correlation between thyroid cancer and use of the pesticide glyphosate, Roundup.

Of course, Roundup poisoning can have serious health consequences. But whatever they may be, this particular illustration is unconvincing. First of all, correlation does not mean causation. For example, you can find a similar correlation between mobile phone use and thyroid cancer, or even between mobile phone use and Roundup! Below we have added information about mobile phones to the diagram. nine0003

If the logic of the original statement is to be believed, then perhaps one should be worried about the fact that mobile phones cause thyroid cancer, or maybe the spread of Roundup is causing an increase in the number of mobile phones.

Let's now look at the chart axes. The vertical axis on the left, associated with the columns, does not go to zero. We have already explained why this can lead to misperceptions of the data. But it's even worse. Both the scale and the vertical axis cutoff on the right have been changed so that the glyphosate curve follows the peaks of the cancer frequency bars. Even more remarkable is the fact that in order to make the curve behave this way, the axis had to reach negative values ​​- the use of -10,000 tons of glyphosate. It's just absurd. We noted that the vertical axis does not have to go to zero in a line chart, but if it goes down to a negative value for a parameter that can only be positive, consider it an alarm. nine0003

Most often we see fraud with the vertical axis, but the horizontal axis can also be used to mislead. Perhaps the easiest way is to select a data range that hides part of the story. In July 2018, the value of Facebook shares collapsed to an unprecedented depth for the US stock market after the company presented its financial statements for the second quarter of 2018. These results fell short of Wall Street's expectations, triggering a stock crash. A Business Insider headline read: "Facebook Stock Crash Cuts $120 Billion in Market Value: Biggest U.S. Stock Market Drop in History." Below was a chart of Facebook stock prices over a period of four days. nine0003

On the one hand, the decline was indeed significant, but the initial value of Facebook shares was very high. In general, the company is doing very well, if we put the fall in July 2018 in the context of a chart that spans five years instead of four days.

If we describe the situation in this way, we will see a completely different story about the disaster of Facebook on the stock exchange. We will see a quick recovery from previous downs. We are not so much interested in whether the graph in Business Insider was misleading, but it is important to show how the range affects the perception of information. Keep this in mind when looking at line charts and similar visualizations. Make sure the timeline you choose is appropriate for the point of view the graph is trying to illustrate. nine0003

Let's look at another way to fool around with the horizontal axis. The chart below suggests that CO2 emissions have reached a plateau. The accompanying text states: "Over the past few years, carbon dioxide emissions around the world have stabilized compared to previous years."

But look what happens to the horizontal axis. Each point corresponds to an interval of 30 years until we reach 1991. The next step is already 10 years old. Then 9 years. Further, each interval is equal to only one year. If we redraw this graph so that the x-axis has a constant scale throughout, we will see a different picture. nine0003

Carbon dioxide emissions may be rising at a slower rate now, but it doesn't look like they've reached a plateau.

In general, it is important to look at the unevenness and scaling of the x-axis. Something similar happens with histograms (bar charts), when each bar displays the total data in some interval. Look at the following bar chart from The Wall Street Journal article on President Obama's tax plan.

The chart tries to show who bears the brunt of taxation in the US. Each column represents taxpayers of a certain income level. To do this, the data about them were summarized. Income levels are shown on the horizontal axis, while the vertical represents the total income of each group. Most of the taxable income, according to these figures, is created by the middle class, that is, people with incomes from $50,000 to $200,000 a year, whose column rose above all. (The $200,000 to $500,000 income group also has a large share of the income, but even by The Wall Street Journal standards, it's hardly middle class.)

The author claims that most of the tax burden under Obama's plan will inevitably fall on the shoulders of the middle class, not the rich.

“The rich aren't rich enough to fund Mr. Obama's grandiose government ambitions even before his healthcare reform plan goes into effect. Who, then, should bear the tax burden? Well, in 2008, about $5. 65 trillion of total taxable income for all individual taxpayers was created by people with average earnings. The distribution is illustrated by a diagram. The big column in the center is who the Democrats will go after, for exactly the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks. nine0003

*This is a reference to the historical anecdote about the legendary robber Willie Sutton, who allegedly asked "Why did you rob all these banks?" replied: "Because there is money."

But take a closer look at this diagram. The income intervals that correspond to each column of the histogram vary greatly in size. At the beginning, each next interval is $5,000 or $10,000 larger than the next one. Not surprisingly, the bars are low. These are narrow intervals! Then, as soon as we get to the middle class—those who, according to the authors, bear the main burden of taxes—the intervals widen radically. We have two intervals with an additional $25,000, and then an interval that is $100,000 more. And then the intervals only grow. This choice of distribution intervals creates the illusion that the main taxable income is at the center of the distribution. nine0003

Political scientist Ken Schultz set out to show how a designer can tell completely different stories if he is allowed to choose the spacing width. He took the same tax data but arranged the intervals differently to tell three different stories.

By varying the size of the income intervals on these histograms, Schultz was able to create stories about how we need to tax the poor, the middle class (now defined as people with less than $100,000 of taxable income), and the very rich. nine0003

The Wall Street Journal may not have tried to mislead readers. It turns out that it is at such intervals that the tax administration collects its data on the income of taxpayers. But, regardless of the author's motives, you need to be careful, because how the information is organized can affect the meaning of the story.

Let's look at another example of how data aggregation can be deceiving. The data in the following chart should illustrate the extent to which genetics predict academic achievement. The horizontal axis is the influence of genetics, and the vertical axis is the level of academic achievement in high school. The trend looks extremely strong. At first glance, you might think that genes play a huge role in academic achievement. nine0003

However, the data shown in this way is false. The problem is with aggregation. All indicators within each of the ten intervals along the axis are collected together, and the resulting average indicator is displayed in the diagram. By taking the average in this way, the authors masked a wide variety of individual ratings. The raw data shown in the following chart tells a different story. Although this is exactly the information that we used to make the previous diagram. But it looks more like the aftermath of a gunshot than a strong linear trend! nine0003

It turns out that the genetic factor is responsible for only 9% of the variation in academic achievement.

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