According to Fast Company, U.S. citizens are tracking deaths by police. It’s an interesting read about who collects data.
Our issue is with how that data is conveyed. Consider this map, showing fatal encounters with police.
At a glance, it looks like the problem is the worst in four states - California, Texas, Florida and New York. But those are the four states with the largest populations. If all else was equal, you would expect those four states to have the largest number of incidents.
We appreciate the work that researchers are doing to call attention to a serious issue (and we recommend you check out Brian Burghart's Fatal Encounters website). We just wish they would have chosen a more accurate way to portray the data.
Unfortunately, this is a common issue with visuals. They try to show differences in data, but they don’t account for all of the underlying variables. In this case, perhaps they could have used a cartogram – a type of visual that skews the size of objects (states, in this instance) so they’re proportional to the data. We’ll talk about cartograms in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.