John Burn-Murdoch Profile picture
Columnist @FinancialTimes | Stories, stats & scatterplots | Senior fellow @LSEdataScience | john.burn-murdoch@ft.com | Mastodon: jburnmurdoch@econtwitter.net
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Nov 29 7 tweets 3 min read
Well folks, it’s the first day of the final round of group stage matches, and this can only mean one thing:

🎉 permutations 🎉

First, England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
- Win -> top the group
- Draw -> probs top, but 2nd if Iran win or huge US win
- Lose -> probs 2nd, slim chance of top or 3rd Image For the US 🇺🇸, it’s a simple situation:

Fail to win, and all of that orange and red means instant elimination. But beat Iran, and progress is guaranteed, either as group winner if Wales beat England, or otherwise as runners-up to England. Image
Nov 21 11 tweets 3 min read
Celebrating 34 years on this planet by watching the sun come up at 6,000 feet Update: still pretty good
Oct 30 35 tweets 9 min read
NEW: a column in the Times argues that the only way to tackle obesity is through fat shaming (yes, you read that right).

It’s an astonishing argument to make, and unsurprisingly it falls to pieces under scrutiny.

Let’s take a look, and see if we can do better: First, the author draws a parallel with smoking, declaring that stigmatising & shaming smokers was central to reducing cigarette consumption.

This is quite the claim, and ignores the fact that *by far* the biggest factor in reducing rates of smoking was heavily taxing cigarettes
Oct 28 13 tweets 4 min read
I made the mistake of writing that the US Senate should be reformed because one-state-one-vote is undemocratic, so I now have American commenters telling me "sir, actually it was designed that way" as if that somehow wins the argument.

This week’s column: enterprise-sharing.ft.com/redeem/df99f65… Why do I say one-state-one-vote is a problem?

Well, because here’s how an issue where Americans are essentially split 50/50 — whether gun control is more important than gun rights — turns into 34 states for gun rights vs 16 states for gun control, i.e ~50/50 becomes 68/32. Image
Oct 23 6 tweets 3 min read
Random Sunday fun:

I made an interactive tool where you can see how mortality rates by age in England & Wales have changed over almost 200 years: observablehq.com/@johnburnmurdo…

Select any grid square to see other age/sex/year combos with the same mortality rate Some examples:

During the bitter fighting of the first world war, a 23-year-old Englishman had the same chance of surviving the year as an 80-year-old today (!)

Really puts into perspective how horrific it was, and how towns/villages could lose almost all their young men.
Oct 22 8 tweets 2 min read
Honestly find it *wild* how so many on the left take the view that if someone previously voted for a party on the right, they are tarnished for life and if they start openly discussing shifting away from that party and away from the right, they should be mocked and jeered. “Hey so look I reluctantly voted x in the past, but I’ve been reflecting and I don’t think I can do that again this time.”

“Scum.”

Lovely stuff 👍
Sep 16 14 tweets 5 min read
NEW: income inequality in US & UK is so wide that while the richest are very well off, the poorest have a worse standard of living than the poorest in countries like Slovenia ft.com/content/ef2654…

Essentially, US & UK are poor societies with some very rich people.

A thread: In most developed countries, the distribution of income is ~relatively~ equal, with top 10% earning about 3x as much as bottom 10%.

That means the same *relative* standard of living broadly persists across the income distribution.
Sep 9 4 tweets 2 min read
Stories like these are so valuable.

There will always be a guy who says “Women just don’t want to go into those careers. Maybe people have different preferences?”, but when you see the reality, it’s instantly clear how far from a free choice/preference the decision actually is. Same for other under-represented groups in all sorts of domains, of course.

If you’re constantly made to feel unwelcome, your “preferences” are going to look rather different to those of the dominant group.
Sep 5 5 tweets 2 min read
Lots of attention (rightly) on projections that China’s population might fall by ⚠️ roughly half ⚠️ by end of this century, but not sure people appreciate quite how widespread this dynamic is.

More than a dozen countries (most of them in Europe) are set to shrink even faster 📉 Also neatly illustrates why single-country explanations ("it’s the legacy of the one-child policy", "it’s their brutally competitive school system") are often misguided.

This is happening ~everywhere, against widely varying policies and cultures.
Aug 23 56 tweets 20 min read
NEW: the collapse of emergency healthcare in England may be costing 500 lives every week, a close match for non-Covid excess deaths

Let’s look at how we reach that conclusion, by taking a deep-dive into non-Covid excess mortality and its possible causes

ft.com/content/f36c5d… First, the international picture

While excess deaths everywhere are far below Covid peaks, many countries are still seeing a sustained excess this summer, suggesting a common factor is causing unexpected deaths in dozens of countries.

But all may not be as it seems...
Jul 5 4 tweets 1 min read
Absolute scenes When you stop to think about it for a minute, it's kind of insane that this is all playing out through *tweeted* resignation letters.

Seismic political change ... through the medium of tweets.
Jun 26 16 tweets 6 min read
NEW: unfortunately it’s time for another international Covid update, as the BA.5 Omicron lineage (and BA.4 to a lesser extent) sends not only cases but also hospitalisations climbing around the world, from South Africa, to Portugal, the UK, Israel and now the US 📈 As ever, it’s instructive to look beneath the surface of the aggregate numbers to see what’s really happening.

What appear to be declining overall numbers in Spain, or a slowing of growth in the US, are actually just the BA.5 rise 📈 being partially masked by the BA.2 decline 📉
Jun 19 4 tweets 1 min read
Guys. I think I've solved Britain's productivity puzzle.

It's the millions of person-hours lost at airport security taking liquids out of people's own transparent toiletry bags and putting them into Approved Clear Plastic Bags™️. Coincidentally, this practice is also believed to be responsible for 83% of the infamous Pacific Garbage Patch of floating plastic waste.
Jun 15 7 tweets 2 min read
Insightful as ever from @stephenkb.

I think we'd understand policies like Rwanda better if we saw them as "vice signalling", the cousin of virtue signalling.

Their advocates have no interest in the policies actually working. They just want to be able to say they're being tough. It also disproves the idea that "signalling" is something that happens either predominantly or exclusively among progressives

Conservatives do this sort of thing all the time, it's just that people often fall for it and assume they always actually intend to deliver on this stuff
Jun 6 5 tweets 1 min read
Random Monday morning question:

How many books would you say you read in a typical year?

And curious to hear any prolific readers' strategies Oh and a clarification: that's *read*, rather than *consume*, so not including audiobooks.

Audiobooks are ace, but here I'm specifically curious about *reading* habits.
May 30 4 tweets 3 min read
Brief trip back into Covid data today:

Promising news from South Africa, where the BA.4 / BA.5 variant wave has passed quietly, with high levels of immunity meaning this wave has had little impact on rates of severe illness or death The cloud to this silver lining, though, is that it may be contributing to a growing sense of complacency around vaccines in Africa, where the public are now taking the jabs much less seriously than before, according to @covidcommssa
May 28 25 tweets 9 min read
NEW: ahead of Champions League final, we need to talk about financial disparities in football.

For decades the sport has been quietly having its "frog in a pan of water" moment, and it feels like we’re approaching boiling point.

My column ft.com/content/f47279…

And a thread: Let’s start with a chart:

Premier League clubs’ revenues have been higher than other leagues for decades, but the size of the gap is now vast.

Today the gap is more than €2bn, allowing English sides to comfortably outbid most of their continental rivals on transfers and wages.
May 21 8 tweets 2 min read
Absolutely insane story

In 2019 a US woman was mistakenly given €26,000 in disability benefits. She promptly sent a cheque to repay the government.

She was then fined €176,000 by Trump's anti-fraud team for having received the initial mistaken payment

washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/… Over 7 months in 2019, 83 people on low incomes — mostly elderly & disabled — were fined a total of $11.5mn by Trump's Social Security anti-fraud team, up from less than $700k for all of 2017 before Trump's team came in.

(The previous team never imposed the maximum fine allowed)
May 15 27 tweets 12 min read
NEW: for this week’s column I dug into the curious case of British attitudes to immigration

Before the EU ref, concern about immigration tracked levels of arrivals. Since then, immigration has kept rising but concerns have evaporated

What’s going on?

ft.com/content/f2d72f… One theory is Brits’ views on immigration were always more than a simple numbers game, and it was *having control* over who comes in that really mattered to the immigration-anxious, rather than the numbers themselves.

Polling by @sundersays @britishfuture seems to bear this out.
May 9 4 tweets 1 min read
Key tweet from a great thread (and do read the full blog post).

The baseline one uses to calculate excess deaths can have a *large* impact on the resulting death toll, and can totally upturn country comparisons. As a result, some of the WHO figures are a long way off other estimates.

Which method is most/least plausible is another question, but the most important thing is to at least be aware of all the steps that lead up to the nice neat numbers that appear in the press release.
May 5 15 tweets 5 min read
NEW: deep dive into the grim & highly unequal impacts of a US abortion ban ft.com/content/ebf64d…

We begin with a damning chart:

US women die from pregnancy-related causes at far higher rates than their peers, and black US women die at rates often seen in developing countries That statistic is an indictment of US maternal health care, and a clear example of how structural & implicit racism can cost lives.

What do I mean by that?