Today's Topics

3 charts today covering:

  • Data on police killings, and incarceration rates, that help give context to what is happening in the US and around the world at the moment.
  • The latest chapter in the WeWork saga, after its valuation was slashed again by Softbank.

Since our Friday newsletter it feels like a lot has changed as protests have now spread across the world over the killing of George Floyd.

With deeply human issues like this, we'd be the first to admit that data has its limitations and can feel abstract and cold – and there are much more important voices than ours to listen to. That said, we'd like to highlight just 2 pieces of data that might help give perspective on what is happening in the US and across the world.

In 2014, protests across the US came thick and fast after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. At the time it looked like it might spark meaningful progress on the issue of police violence and racial prejudice. Data from Mapping Police Violence unfortunately confirms little change.

In 2019, approximately 24% of the victims of police killings were black, despite only representing around 13% of the population. That over-representation has unfortunately persisted through many years, making it clear it's not an anomaly. George Floyd was, tragically, just the latest name to be added to a long list of victims.

How bad is US police violence?

Of the 1,098 victims in 2019, 1,054 (96%) listed gunshot as the cause of death (source: MPV). In England & Wales, where the population is roughly one-fifth the size, the number of fatal police shootings in 2019 was 3.

Further comparisons across countries are difficult because of a (surprising) lack of comparable data on police killings. That said, many other countries have headline rates of police killings 10x to 100x fewer than the US.

Apart from the core issue at hand, the second thing we'd like to highlight is the US prison and justice system, which often acts to reinforce historical inequities, even if unintentionally. 

There are more than 2.1 million people in prison in the United States, more than any other country in the world. Even when adjusting for population, the US comes out on top with 655 prisoners for every 100,000 people in the country. The US incarcerates its population at roughly 5x the rate seen in the UK, more than 6x Canada, and 8.5x more than Germany. Incarceration rates for Black Americans are also 5x higher than White Americans.

In these newsletters we usually try to surprise you with data that you’d not thought about before. Perhaps the saddest thing about the statistics above is just the opposite – that they don’t surprise, or shock, when they should – because stories like George Floyd’s are all too common.

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A company called IWG has taken over some office space in Hong Kong previously run by the 'technology' company WeWork. You've probably never heard of IWG, but they are the largest flexible workspace company in the world.

Giving up space to one of its biggest rivals marks the latest chapter in a remarkable fall from grace for WeWork, and comes just 2 weeks after its parent company wrote down its valuation to $2.9bn, down 94% on the $47bn valuation Softbank previously invested at. It's down even further on some of the higher valuation estimates placed on it by the world's largest investment banks when they were trying to court WeWork to choose them to run its IPO.
IWG, who operates brand such as Regus, Spaces and HQ, couldn't be further from the WeWork model of leasing office space. A lot of their office space is aimed at delivering the essential services only – there's no beer or wine on tap, no meditation rooms and executives probably don't do tequila shots.

Boring beats bold?

The most stark difference between the 2 companies is that boring old IWG actually makes a profit, to the tune of almost £430m ($540m) last year. In case you needed reminding, in 2018 WeWork made a loss from operations of $1.7bn.

We don't mean to hate on WeWork too much, the offices are very cool, but perhaps in commercial real estate fortune favours the... boring?
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Data Snacks

1) Sweden's economy grew by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2020, when most others saw an enormous decline, adding to the debate on Sweden's more relaxed approach to COVID-19. Sweden has seen ~4,500 deaths from COVID-19, which on a per capita basis is 8th in the world.

2) Comedian Kevin Hart misread his hand playing poker on live TV... and still managed to win almost €40,000 ($45,000).

3) Warner Music Group is set to debut on the stock market today, with a valuation of between $11.7bn & $13.3bn expected.

4) Police scanner apps have seen a 125% weekly increase in downloads, according to Apptopia.

5) Facebook has announced they will donate $10m to groups advocating for racial justice, but at the same time is being criticised by some of its workforce for its stance on content moderation.

6) Netflix's latest comedy series, Space Force, is getting mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes data suggests just 40% of critics thought it was good, but audiences seemed to enjoy it more (77%). Trailer here if you're interested.

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