Dataviz! Money in America: Income & Savings


Seventy seven lines of data from the National Average Wage Index get condensed into one pie chart. Savings rates are condensed into another. Animated.

The national average wage index (AWI) is based on compensation (wages, tips, etc.) subject to Federal income taxes, as reported by employers on W2s.

“Beginning with the AWI for 1991, compensation includes contributions to deferred compensation plans, but excludes certain distributions from plans where the distributions are included in the reported compensation subject to income taxes.” The Social Security Administration calls the result of including contributions, and excluding certain distributions, net compensation.

Their tables, and the chart below, summarize the components of net compensation; the latest data available as of the date of this post is October 2016.


What’s interesting about these lines and lines of data is that you have to figure out what you’d like to show from it. The AWI is simply line after line of income levels, how many people make money at each of these levels, and what percentile this lands them in. So the question becomes: what is the benchmark to be visualized?

It makes for a dramatic story all on its own that the USA can be split 50/50 at the $30,000 annual income level. It’s just a small piece of data on the spreadsheet but makes the base for the chart.


The savings rate is just as dramatic with a benchmark of just $1,000. This has been a popular topic lately, as covered by the Atlantic and PBS’ News Hour.