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Ctrl + ← The Best Data Journalism Of 2014

Each week, we let you in on the most-read FiveThirtyEight articles and share our favorite data journalism from elsewhere on the Internet in Ctrl ←. Seeing as it’s Dec. 28 and the new FiveThirtyEight has now reached the ripe old age of 287 days, we thought it was worth rounding up all the roundups and taking a look at 2014’s biggest and best data journalism pieces, starting with our own.


  1. How To Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name
  2. Lionel Messi Is Impossible
  3. Building A Bracket Is Hard This Year, But We’ll Help You Play The Odds
  4. FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast: GOP Is Slight Favorite In Race For Senate Control
  5. In Search Of America’s Best Burrito
  6. What The Fox Knows
  7. A Statistical Analysis Of The Work Of Bob Ross
  8. LeBron James Shouldn’t Stay In Miami Or Go To Cleveland
  9. The American Middle Class Hasn’t Gotten A Raise In 15 Years
  10. It’s Brazil’s World Cup To Lose


  1. Every President’s Executive Orders In One Chart
  2. It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did
  3. Once And For All: Michael Jordan Was Way Better Than Kobe Bryant
  4. The Most Shocking Result in World Cup History
  5. The Odds of Beating Belgium And Every Other World Cup Opponent
  6. The 100 Most-Edited Wikipedia Articles
  7. Send Alex Gordon!
  8. How Good Is Andrew Luck?
  9. Dear Mona, I Masturbate More Than Once A Day. Am I Normal?
  10. The Rate Of Domestic Violence Arrests Among NFL Players


LGBT rights: Same-sex marriage made some major gains in the United States this year, but this interactive feature from The Guardian reminds us that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is still illegal in 79 countries around the world. Feilding Cage, Tara Herman and Nathan Good explored the legal status of sex, marriage, civil partnerships, adoption, workplace discrimination and protection against hate crimes for the world’s LGBT population.

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“Data”? More likely “taad”: In an article that may take a while to go out of date, David Taylor at Prooffreader used the Corpus of Historical American English to chart where letters are most likely to appear in words.


Working when?: Using data from the American Time Use Survey, Quoctrung Bui charted what the typical day looks like for an employed American — and how that changes depending on what sector she works in.

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Go for it!: What play should you call on fourth down? The NYT 4th Down Bot has the answer: “Almost always consider going for it.” The bot analyzes every fourth down of every NFL game, every week. The resulting charts show what coaches are doing, and what the bot thinks they should be doing instead.


School segregation: Writing for ProPublica, Nikole Hannah-Jones looked at data showing that prior to his death, Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot by a police officer in August, was a success story in a school system that has failed so many. Brown had graduated high school and was college bound, but about half of black male students from Brown’s high school in St. Louis, Missouri, never graduate, and just 1 in 4 goes on to enter college. This article focusing on St. Louis County was the latest in a series titled “Segregation Now,” an in-depth look at America’s continuing racial divide.

Europe shifts right: In May, voters in 28 European states chose the parties they wanted to represent them in the European Parliament. In a detailed interactive for the Wall Street Journal, Jovi Juan, Gabriele Steinhauser and Elliot Bentley showed the historic gains that were made for nationalist and anti-EU parties.

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Your life in weeks: Tim Urban showed us that basically, your career is huge.


Did you have a decisive say in who ruled the Senate?: If the answer is yes, you’re part of a really small slice of Americans — as this interactive from Keith Collins and Greg Giroux demonstrated.

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Incongruous police: Using 2010 Census Bureau data, the Washington Post showed the consistent discrepancy between the racial composition of police forces and the communities they serve. Dan Keating, Emily M. Badger and Kennedy Elliott‘s interactive was a timely piece of research, published during the protests that came in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing. Focusing on the 22 U.S. cities with more than 600,000 residents, the journalists found that whites are overrepresented in every single police force. When they looked at all 755 cities in the Census Bureau data, they found that three-quarters have a higher percentage of white police officers than white residents.


Think we missed something? I’m sure we did! Please share your picks for the year’s best data journalism in the comments below.

Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight.