Saying no to Pie

6 April 2017

I saw this pie chart via Beth Popp Berman on Twitter yesterday: Pie charts of student debts by percent of all borrowers and percent of all debt. As you probably know, the perceptual qualities of pie charts are not great. In a single pie chart, it is usually harder than it should be to estimate and compare the values shown, especially when there are more than a few wedges and when there are a number of wedges reasonably close in size.

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The Congressional Budget Office released its cost estimate report for the American Health Care Act yesterday. There are a few tables at the back summarizing the various budgetary and coverage effects of the proposed law. Of these, Table 4 is pretty interesting. The CBO “projected the average national premiums for a 21-year-old in the nongroup health insurance market in 2026 both under current law and under the AHCA. On the basis of those amounts, CBO calculated premiums for a 40-year-old and a 64-year-old, assuming that the person lives in a state that uses the federal default age-rating methodology”.

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Recent Papers

  • “Repugnance Management and Transactions in the Body.” American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings (2017), 107: 86-90. Abstract  pdf
  • “Seeing Like a Market.” Socio-Economic Review (2017), 15:9-29. Abstract  pdf
  • “Categories All the Way Down.” Historical Social Research (2017) 42:286-298, special issue on Markets and Classifications. Abstract  pdf
  • “Organ Entrepreneurs.” The Cambridge Handbook of Law and Entrepreneurship, D. Gordon Smith and Christine Hurt, eds. Abstract  pdf
  • “Transformative Treatments.” Noûs, forthcoming. Abstract  pdf

Current Teaching


I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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