FRED has compiled regional U.S. data for many economic indicators. The vast amount of regional data can make searching through the categories a bit overwhelming. But there are simpler ways to find what you want: You can search the releases if you have a good idea what you’re looking for. You can also use tags to quickly narrow down your search results—for example, by selecting specific geographies and geography types. Here, we look at per capita income for a sample of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the U.S.
In the graph above, we took the natural logarithm for each series, for the following reason: If the economic aggregate you’re looking at is growing at a constant rate and you have a sufficiently long sample, the data series will look convex and may give the impression that growth has been explosive. But if you take the natural logarithm, then a constant growth rate will look like a straight line. The graph above uses the natural logarithm: All four metropolitan areas have a kink around 1980 with a subsequent slowdown. The graph below doesn’t use the natural logarithm: That kink is not visible. Also, below it looks like San Francisco is taking off and separating from the others. Above, the distance between the lines can be interpreted as percentage difference, and it is clear that in relative terms San Francisco stays within range.
How this graph was created: Go to the list of MSAs for which FRED has per capita income, select the series you want, and click the “Add to graph” button. That’s the bottom graph. For the top graph, go to the graph tab and, for each series, expand “Create your own transformation” and select “Natural Log.”
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann
View on FRED, series used in this post: