Searching for sanctuary

Bolthole money pushes prices up for local and foreigner alike

MANY Americans were taken aback when news broke in January that Peter Thiel, an internet billionaire and adviser to Donald Trump, had New Zealand citizenship. For five years this backer of an “America first” president had kept his Kiwi passport quiet. Then the government released details of his $10m-lakeside estate.


A growing horde of rich foreigners see New Zealand as a safe haven. In 2016 overseas investors bought just 3% of all properties. But their purchases were concentrated at the expensive end of the market, which is growing fast: sales involving homes worth more than NZ$1m ($690,000) increased by 21%. That helped push prices in the country up by 13% over the past year, to lead The Economist’s latest tally of global house-price inflation (see table).

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Forgotten men

Tracking the fortunes of the white working-class

IN 1922 Donald Trump’s father, Fred, left high school at 16 to work for a carpenter. He was a “very smart guy” who could “add five columns of numbers in his head”. Construction came naturally to him, too. By 1971 he had amassed a multi-million-dollar fortune. Working-class success stories like Fred’s are rare in America, and becoming rarer. The president wants to see more of them.

At his inauguration he declared that America’s “forgotten men and women” will “be forgotten no longer”. And he has vowed to bring back jobs to states that have been “hurt so badly” by globalisation. By America’s forgotten people, he means above all white working-class men: three-quarters of white men who left school at 18 and voted in November did so for Mr Trump, the highest share of any demographic group.

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America’s murder rate is rising at its fastest pace since the early 1970s

MURDER, which grew rarer for 20 years, is on the rise again. But by how much? In 2015, the number of murders increased by 11% nationwide. During 2016, an escalation of gang violence in Chicago left 764 people dead in a city where 485 had been killed a year before. A dispute ensued over whether the Windy City was simply an isolated example or a barometer of a wider problem.

National statistics for 2016 will not be released for eight months, but to get an early sense of the answer The Economist has gathered murder statistics for 2016 for the 50 cities with the most murders. These places contain 15% of the country’s population and around 36% of murder victims. Our numbers show that, in 2016, murders increased in 34 of the cities we tracked. Three cities experienced a spike in deaths sharper than the 58% suffered by Chicago. Since cities tend to reflect the country as a whole, this suggests that the murder rate is rising at its fastest pace since the early 1970s.

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By the numbers

The apparent rise in hate-crime since the election is likely to be short lived

ON THE morning of November 18th, two swastikas and the words “Go Trump” were found daubed in a children’s playground in Brooklyn. This is one of 360 hate crimes being investigated by New York’s police department in 2016, an increase of 35% over 2015. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has set up a special unit to tackle the “explosion” of such crimes in the state. In the Senate last month, Harry Reid, the minority leader, said that Donald Trump’s election had “sparked a wave of hate crimes across America. This is a simple statement of fact.” But look more closely and the facts become more difficult to establish.

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I shall post some of the underlying code to Github in due course.

Illness as indicator

Local health outcomes predict Trumpward swings

…on November 15th Patrick Ruffini, a well-known pollster, offered a “challenge for data nerds” on Twitter: “Find the variable that can beat % of non-college whites in the electorate as a predictor of county swing to Trump.” With no shortage of nerds, The Economist has taken Mr Ruffini up on his challenge. Although we could not find a single factor whose explanatory power was greater than that of non-college whites, we did identify a group of them that did so collectively: an index of public-health statistics.


I intend to post the underlying code for this to Github in a few weeks.

A country divided by counties

America’s presidential election over time and space

As our map of America’s voting patterns on a county-by-county basis going back to 1952 makes clear, Mr Trump’s gains were concentrated in rural areas across the northern United States. Republicans have long held the edge in America’s wide-open spaces, but never has the gap been this profound: a whopping 80% of voters who have over one square mile (2.6 square km) of land to enjoy to themselves backed Mr Trump. As the scatter plot below demonstrates, as counties become increasingly densely populated, fewer and fewer vote Republican. American politics appear to be realigning along a cleavage between inward-looking countryfolk and urban globalists. Mr Trump hails from the latter group, but his message resounded with the former.

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Model behaviour

In America, who votes may matter more than how they vote

ON A crisp autumn afternoon, armed with “I’m with her” balloons, a boombox and a clipboard, Eli Clark-Davis sets out dancing down the street with his friends to get out the Democratic vote in Fishtown, a gentrifying neighbourhood in Philadelphia. The group’s mission is to knock on as many doors as possible, reminding registered voters of whom they should back, when election day falls and where to cast their ballots. They ask potential supporters to sign an “I commit to vote for Hillary” slip, which the campaign hopes will adorn refrigerator doors. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has set up 300 of these “staging posts” across the Pennsylvania, from which armies of volunteers set forth to mobilise her party’s base. On the campaign’s penultimate weekend, they knocked on 500,000 doors—roughly one-tenth of the households in the whole of the Keystone State.

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False alarms

Bellwether election counties do not merit the epithet

WHEN predicting how America will vote, one popular crystal ball is the “bellwether county”. “Magic Town”, a 1947 film, envisioned a fictional town of Grandview that was a perfect microcosm of America, where everyone “thinks the way the whole country does.” Vigo County in Indiana, home to 100,000 people, appears to be America’s real-life Grandview: it has voted for the winner in 24 of the past 25 presidential contests. Every four years journalists flock there in the hope of taking the pulse of the nation.

Vigo’s record is remarkable, but many other counties are close on its heels. During the past century, 110 different counties (there are more than 3,000 in total) have voted for the winner in at least 12 consecutive presidential elections. It is natural to assume that such places must at least be broadly representative of the country as a whole, even if they are not necessarily populated entirely by soothsayers. The data suggest otherwise. Just two-thirds of these counties went on to pick the president correctly the 13th time.

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Defining realignment

The anger and fickleness of voters are forcing change. But in which direction?

BIG structural changes to political parties happen only once in a generation. Academics reckon that in 219 years America has seen just six different party systems, each attracting a distinct coalition of voters. Donald Trump’s idea of turning the Republican Party, long the ally of big business, into a “workers’ party” may yet force a seventh. To track the trend, The Economist has melted down the American electorate into their policy choices and priorities alone, freeing them from party labels to see what kind of winning policy platforms might emerge in future.


Hoping that demography is not destiny

Britain’s EU referendum

ON JUNE 23rd Britons will head to the polls to answer a simple question they have not been asked since 1975: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” If the answer is “remain”, Britain will continue to integrate with the EU’s 27 other countries. If it chooses to “leave”, the Kingdom may split apart and begin to drift gently into mid-Atlantic obscurity.

“Remain” has led in the polls for almost the entirety of the campaign. In early June the “leave” side surged, and briefly appeared to have taken a decisive lead. But the tragic murder on June 16th of Jo Cox, a pro-EU member of Parliament, may have helped swing the polls again in recent days. On the surface, this has restored a narrow edge for “remain”. However, the share of people saying they intend to vote for “remain” has not actually increased. Instead, a sliver of the electorate has simply switched from “leave” to “don’t know”. With just one or two percentage points splitting the two sides, the outcome will depend largely on the 10-15% of voters who say they are still undecided.

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