US Budget Visualization

Launch the Visualization by clicking here (browsers supported are the latest of Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari -not IE).

Every year, Americans fill out income tax forms and make a payment to the IRS. Where does it all go? Using data provided by WhatWePayFor.com, Luz Caballero and I created a data visualization that will make it easier to understand how the government spends our tax money.

The Visualization

This visualization is made of two components. First, a tree layout shows, for each given year, how the budget (blue) is divided on each function (green), subfunction (yellow), and “account” (the most granular subdivision accounted for in the budget, which gives an idea of the use to which the money is put) (red):

Icicle Layout

The height of each node/section in the tree is proportional to the amount of the budget spent on that function, subfunction or “account”. You can click on the nodes to navigate and filter functions and subfunctions. To go back you can right-click or click in the back arrow on the left of the visualization.

The second component of the application is a timeline that puts the amounts you are visualizing in the tree in a temporal context, showing the evolution of that particular spending category through time. Click on the bars representing the different years to navigate through time.

Timeline

We wanted to allow our users to compare today’s spending to the 80s’ without artifacts caused by inflation, and changes in population and GDP. This is why our visualization shows inflation-adjusted USD, gives you the the option to see spending in USD, in USD per capita, or as a percentage of the time’s GDP. Plus, we wanted to give our users a good shot at pinpointing if/when spending changes are a consequence of government policy or of the economic climate. This is why you can overlay indicators like debt, GDP, inflation and yr/yr population change, to give you an idea of how they affect and are influenced by spending trends.

Timeline

Interaction

What makes this application most interesting is the interaction between the components, which are tightly coupled.

When a function is selected, the timeline will adapt to show the budget spending trend for that particular function over the years.

Interacting with the Icicle tree

When clicking on a timeline element, the tree will animate to show how the budget is spent on each function, subfunction and account, for the selected year.

If you are interested in comparing how the budget changed between two different moments in time, there is an option to transition between years using colors, red and green, to highlight a decrease or increase of total budget spending for each item.

Interacting with the Icicle tree

Demo Video

We created a video that shows how to navigate and filter data and some interesting finds we made using our visualization. Click here to see the video in HD.

Click here to access the visualization.