Thursday, December 22, 2011

Toil and Trouble

Robert Frank's submission for the Post's "2011 in charts" is number 12 and it's a bit strange. It's the toil index: Franks' term for "the effort required to rent a house served by a school of average quality." It shows a steady increase since the 1950s but it leaves out some key variables over the past 60 years. Homes have gotten larger, people per households have fallen, quality of standard household appliances have increased, etc. Some of these things are hard to measure, but median square feet is easy to find.

Below is the correction, with me eyeballing the original values from Frank's chart. My data only goes back to 1973 so I used those numbers for 1970 and excluded 1950 and 1960.



The original toil index is the green line (left axis) and the adjusted is the red line (right axis). You can think of the adjusted line as "the effort required to rent a square foot of space served by a school of average quality." All of a sudden, those numbers are not so severe. The 2000-2005 jump is still quite noteworthy, but general flattening of the curve cannot be denied (and this was just one correction).