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The Datasets We’re Looking At This Week

You’re reading Data Is Plural, a weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets. Below you’ll find the Aug. 17, 2022, edition, reprinted with permission at FiveThirtyEight.

2022.08.17 edition

Recessions and expansions, consumer finances, pro-government militias, pollinationships and atomic gardening.

Recessions and expansions. The U.S. has no official definition of a recession, but many observers look to the nongovernmental National Bureau of Economic Research, whose Business Cycle Dating Committee tries to determine “the dates of peaks and troughs that frame economic recessions and expansions.” The committee publishes a table and data files listing those dates for dozens of cycles since the mid-1800s. But be prepared to wait: “Our determination of the trough date in April 2020 occurred 15 months after that date, in July 2021. Earlier determinations took between 4 and 21 months.” [h/t USAFacts]

Consumer finances. Every three years since 1983, the U.S. Federal Reserve has conducted its Survey of Consumer Finances, which asks a sample of families detailed questions about their income, savings, assets, pensions, loans, credit lines, demographics and more. “No other study for the country collects comparable information,” according to the Fed. The most recent edition interviewed 5,783 families between May 2019 and April 2020. Related: Moritz Kuhn et al. (data available here) have merged results from the modern survey with those from an earlier incarnation conducted from 1948 to 1977. As seen in: “Wealth of Two Nations: The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap, 1860-2020” (Ellora Derenoncourt et al.). [h/t Sharon Machlis]

Pro-government militias. Sabine Carey et al.’s Pro-Government Militias Database focuses on armed, organized groups that align themselves with a government but are not part of its official security forces. The latest version, published earlier this year and browsable online, provides a wide range of structured information about 504 such groups active between 1981 and 2014, including their purpose, membership, targets, government links, material support and more.

Pollinationships. Nicholas Balfour et al.’s Database of Pollinator Interactions “documents British pollinator-plant associations,” bringing together records from “disparate publications currently scattered throughout the scientific literature” (and other sources) into a queryable depository. Its 100,000-plus entries document more than 320,000 interactions observed between 1,800-plus insect species and 1,200-plus plant species, some published as early as 1895. [h/t Tyler Knight]

Atomic gardening. The Mutant Variety Database, jointly maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, tracks the metaphorical and literal fruits of atomic gardening, a decades-old practice also known as radiation breeding. The database’s 3,400-plus entries indicate each known variety’s crop type, species, targeted characteristics, mutation-development method, country, registration year and more. [h/t Lee Wilkins]

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Jeremy Singer-Vine is a data editor, reporter and computer programmer based in New York City.


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