Saturday 25 June 2016

What can explain Brexit?

There have been enough maps, charts and infographics on Brexit already, so I'll just post three scatterplots here. I was trying to figure out what was going on, so I explored a few key variables that I thought might explain why people voted the way they did. I chose deprivation, lack of qualifications and higher qualifications, using 2011 Census data. I only focused on England here. Some of it has been done already by John Burn-Murdoch at the FT, though in a different (much nicer) way.

First, deprivation is - overall - not strongly correlated with percent voting leave at the local authority level (R-squared is 0.0369). I used 2015 Indices of Deprivation at the local authority level in the scatterplot below, where I've also labelled some areas and coloured the points by region. 

Click to enlarge

Next, I decided to look at whether the percent of people with no qualifications correlated closely with the percent voting for leave in each local authority in England. This was much more successful, with an R-Squared of 0.6197. 

A pretty convincing pattern here

Finally, I decided to see whether higher levels of education - rather than lack of education - was more strongly associated with the propensity to vote leave, and it is. In the scatterplot below I compare the percent with Level 4 qualifications or above with the percent voting to leave the EU. This produces an R-squared value of 0.8053, which is really pretty high.

The outlier to the top left is the City of London

This may not be particularly surprising, given what is known about the link between voting patterns and education but I think it's particularly interesting because of i) the historic significance of this referendum and ii) the people likely to be hardest hit by any post-Brexit economic downturn.

Data sources: Census 2011 table KS501EW via NOMIS and EU Referendum data is from the Electoral Commission. I have shared the spreadsheet (and the Level 4 vs. % leave) here in case anyone wants to look more closely or make an interactive version.

Sunday 12 June 2016

International collaboration, without leaving the house (or, why social media can be a good thing)

The idea behind today's post is in some ways blindingly obvious, but also often overlooked. Basically, it's that sharing ideas online can lead to all sorts of interesting, unexpected international collaborations of various types. I'm talking here specifically about research and academic-related collaboration, but it could apply to just about anything. I thought I'd share a short maps/viz story about this, just to demonstrate that 'internationalisation' (a common feature of University policy) doesn't mean having to cram yourself into a plane for 10 hours to some far flung paradise. But of course I should start with a map.

It's a bit of an eyesore in some ways, but that's not the point. Here's the story, and the point...

I'd been doing some work on mapping travel to work flows, since the data were released for England and Wales in the summer of 2014. Some time after that, another University of Sheffield department were contacted by a scholar from Turkey (Ebru Sener) asking about the possibility of visiting on a short Erasmus-funded trip. The other department didn't follow up so I looked into it, Skyped with Ebru and quickly discovered we had a lot of common interests and a good amount of overlap in our skills - but also, crucially, areas where we could learn from each other.

This led to a research visit in 2015, during which time we wrote a paper on housing market search (now published in Cities). Ebru also taught a class for me that week, which was great. We then kept in touch via e-mail and social media and it was Ebru that suggested I make the commuter dots go back to where they came from, which I thought was a nice touch and I then wrote this stuff up into a short piece for the Huffington Post after they got in touch (I have a paper on that coming out in future as well).

That summer, I experimented further on this area of research by looking at US commuting flows at the small area level. I published a short working paper on it, as well as a couple of blog pieces, plus the data I created from it. This then led to a brilliant US scholar (Garrett Nelson) taking a sub-set of the data and using a community partitioning algorithm to derive communities for one state (Massachusetts - see below). He blogged this, told me about it on Twitter and then I had a new idea so contact him again to see if he wanted to collaborate on a project to do this for the whole United States. Once again, we Skyped, made a plan and then got to work (side note: we used cloud computing because the data had outgrown the desktop environment).

Now we've almost finished our paper and - we hope - this will lead to further collaboration on the topic.

Following this, the brilliant Mark Evans (from Michigan) got in touch to say he was planning something which built on some of the ideas I'd had in order to build an interactive US version of the animated dot map you see above. He built it, shared with me and then it went kind of viral - with many news sites and local and regional outlets picking it up (Daily Mail, CityLab, WIRED, etc.). I don't claim that I could have done this but it's nice to know I was, in part, a source of inspiration. Mark has also shared his method, which is great for further collaboration and other users. In the gif below you can see that Mark has coloured the dots based on where people come from, which is a nice innovation.

And the point? International collaboration and internationalisation seem to be talked about a lot in terms of travel, short and medium-term study visits and can be a logistical nightmare. Often, it's necessary though. The kind of thing I've discussed above can be an additional means of 'internationalisation' that is both cost effective and time efficient. I haven't seen that much about the possibilities for formal international collaboration through social media. This might be because I don't pay attention. 

Having said that you can do international collaboration without leaving the house, I am of course off to the US this week for a conference...