Mon, May 13, 2019

Baby Name Animation

I was playing around with the gganimate package this morning and thought I'd make a little animation showing a favorite finding about the distribution of baby names in the United States. This is the fact—I think first noticed by Laura Wattenberg, of the Baby Name Voyager—that there has been a sharp, relatively recent rise in boys’ names ending in the letter ‘n’, at the expense of names with ‘e’, ‘l’, and ‘y’ endings.

Fri, Mar 22, 2019

A Quick and Tidy Look at the 2018 GSS

The data from the 2018 wave of the General Social Survey was released during the week, leading to a flurry of graphs showing various trends. The GSS is one of the most important sources of information on various aspects of U.S. society. One of the best things about it is that the data is freely available for more than forty years worth of surveys. Here I'll walk through my own quick look at the data, in order to show how R can tidily manage data from a complex survey.

Mon, Mar 18, 2019

Frank Oz Muppets and the Big Five Personality Traits

In case you are searching for a unified account of Frank Oz Muppets in terms of the Big Five Personality Traits—and, to be clear, someone on the internet was earlier today—I'm providing it here for posterity. This version includes the “Henson Area”, which is optional but both clarifying for the strictly psychological aspects and a bridge to a fully social theory of Frank Oz Muppets. A unified account of Frank Oz Muppets in terms of the Big Five Personality Traits, and vice versa.

Tue, Mar 12, 2019

Installing Socviz

I've gotten a couple of reports from people having trouble installing the development version of the socviz library that's meant to be used with Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction. As best as I can tell, the difficulties are being caused by GitHub's rate limits. The symptom is that, after installing the tidyverse and devtools libraries, you try install_github("kjhealy/socviz") and get an error something like this: Error in utils::download.file(url, path, method = download_method(), quiet = quiet(): cannot open URL https://api.

Tue, Mar 12, 2019

The Persistence of the Old Regime, Again

A few years ago I wrote a post about the stickiness of college and university rankings in the United States. It's been doing the rounds again, so I thought I'd revisit it and redraw a few of the graphs I made then. In 1911, Kendric Babcock made an effort to rank US Universities and Colleges. In his report, Babcock divided schools into four Classes, beginning with Class I: The better sort of school.

Mon, Feb 25, 2019

Four Dataviz Posters

I was asked for some examples of posters I've made using R and ggplot. Here are four. Some of these are done from start to finish in R, others involved some post-processing in Illustrator, usually to adjust some typographical elements or add text in a sidebar. I've linked to a PDF of each one, along with a pointer to the original post about the graphic. If you're interested in learning more about how to making graphs and charts using R and ggplot, then by a staggering coincidence there's a new visualization book out that can help you with that.

Thu, Feb 7, 2019


I am stuck at home sick today, so I decided to provide a relational analysis of the Stats Package Wars that have been bubbling away for the past week. True in all its details. If you want something slightly more constructive, consider Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction, or The Plain Person's Guide to Plain-Text Social Science.

Wed, Jan 2, 2019

Dataviz Course Packet Quickstart

Chapter 2 of Data Visualization walks you through setting up an R Project, and takes advantage of R Studio's support for RMarkdown templates. That is, once you've created your project in R Studio, can choose File > New File > R Markdown, like this: Select R Markdown … And then choose “From Template” on the left side of the dialog box that pops up, and select the “Data Visualization Notes” option on the right:

Thu, Dec 27, 2018

French Mortality Poster

Based on the heatmaps I drew earlier this month, I made a poster of two centuries of data on mortality rates in France for males and females. It turned out reasonably well, I think. I will probably get it blown up to a nice large size and put it up on the wall. I've had very good results with PhD Posters for work like this over the years, by the way.

Wed, Dec 12, 2018

Teaching and Learning Materials for Data Visualization

Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction will begin shipping next week. I've written an R package that contains datasets, functions, and a course packet to go along with the book. The socviz package contains about twenty five datasets and a number of utility and convenience functions. The datasets range in size from things with just a few rows (used for purely illustrative purproses) to datasets with over 120,000 observations, for practicing with and exploring.

Sociology and other distractions, since 2002. View an index of posts by category. R-related posts also appear on R-Bloggers.


I am Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m also affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Read a brief overview of my work or my Curriculum Vitae.



To be notified of updates, you can subscribe to the  RSS feed for the site.