Kate Allen

It’s a startling stat: golf courses occupy more English land than housing does. The claim was first made by housing consultant Colin Wiles in 2013 and publicised by Britain’s biggest housing charity Shelter.

English golf courses occupy 270,000 hectares, he calculated – 2% of the total land area. By contrast 1.1% of England’s landmass is occupied by homes, according to official figures dug out by Shelter. It is a shocking contrast.

In the three years since Mr Wiles first published his estimate, his stat has taken on a life of its own, picking up news coverage (and wildly varying headlines) from outlets including Huffington Post and City AM. It popped up again last week in discussions about a hard-hitting new documentary on homelessness, “No Place To Call Home”.

The golf courses stat has become one of those bits of pub-quiz trivia with which to wow people at parties. But is it actually true?

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Kate Allen

It’s happened to all of us: you’re in a part of town you haven’t visited before, and as you walk along the road the storefronts become gradually more decrepit, increasingly interspersed by corrugated shutters.

You ask yourself: why is this bit of town so strangely quiet? What makes this area economically unsuccessful? Read more

Kate Allen

Political journalists have become exceedingly wary of pollsters since they called last year’s general election wrongly. Are they right to be? The performance of major polling companies in this referendum could make or break their reputations – get it wrong again and the fury of Fleet Street will be unconstrained.

But there’s good reason to feel that hacks should have learned some lessons too – the first being, properly understand what it is that you are reporting. Here are a handful of key points to bear in mind when in the coming days we consider the pollsters’ performance in this referendum. Read more

Kate Allen

Pollsters should be more transparent about their methodology and more quizzical about people’s intention to vote, a wide-ranging review of last year’s election polling disaster has recommended – as well as suggesting that Britain needs fewer, but better, political polls.

Polling companies were left embarrassed last year by the surprise Conservative election win, which none of them had accurately predicted. Polls showed Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck in the run-up to the vote last May, but on the night the Tories won an outright majority with a lead of 7 percentage points in the popular vote. Read more

Experts pinpoint why online polls and those made by phone show wide discrepancy Read more

Kate Allen

Why is one measure of EU immigration to Britain nearly three times as high as the other?

That is the question Westminster’s Brexiteers are asking this week. The answer could shape the arguments both for and against Britain leaving the EU. Read more

Kate Allen

In the next four months Britain will be inundated with opinion polls. As the Leave and Remain camps gear up for Britain’s first referendum on its relationship with Europe for four decades, the stakes are high.

But this time last year the nation also pored over an array of polls during the general election campaign, and yet those polls proved unreliable.

How should a cautious FT reader know what to make of polling about the EU referendum? Here are five points to bear in mind …

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Kate Allen

The price of oil is at its most stable for decades, as rising US production helps offset supply disruptions such as the Arab Spring, according to research by BP that was released today.

The petroleum giant’s annual statistical review contains a wealth of information about many aspects of the global energy market. Read more

Kate Allen

Much of the coverage of the latest English Housing Survey figures has focused on the booming private rented sector. But there’s something interesting to be said about the social rented sector too. Namely, that social housing is ageing – maybe even dying.

Not just figuratively – the proportion of housing stock which is social rented has dropped from nearly a third in 1980 to under 17 per cent in 2013 – but also literally, in terms of its tenants.

The biggest group of tenants in social housing is not, as is popularly thought, the unemployed. It’s not the working poor either. The biggest group of tenants in England’s social housing is retired people.

By contrast, the biggest group in private rented housing is full-time workers.

As a result, social housing is dominated by older people – while private rented housing is dominated by young people. Read more

Kate Allen

Aberdeen’s economy is booming. The gateway to Britain’s offshore oil and gas reserves, it has long helped to buoy up Scotland’s economy. And now with a wider economic recovery kicking in, it’s acting like Viagra on the area’s house prices.

Property values in Aberdeen and the surrounding area grew faster than anywhere else in the UK in 2013, according to new data produced by estate agents Savills exclusively for the FT.

Aberdeen has even outpaced last year’s hotspot, Elmbridge in Surrey. Read more

“I haven’t achieved impact. I’ve got fame but no impact. My son tells me I have the [worst] fame-impact ratio in the world.”

It’s a little odd to hear Hans Rosling complain about a lack of influence. Can a man who is invited to speak to world leaders, bosses of some of the biggest companies on the planet and organisations such as the IMF – and who, in 2012, was included in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world – really feel insignificant? Read more

Kate Allen

by Kate Allen, Keith Fray and Patrick Mathurin

What are the most used (and perhaps overused) charts of 2013? Read more

Kate Allen

Six of the ten most expensive streets to buy a home in England and Wales are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a study by Lloyds Bank has found.

The most expensive street was Egerton Crescent, which lies close to the Victoria and Albert and Natural History museums, where properties have a typical price tag of just under £7.4m. Read more

Kate Allen

By Kate Allen, Callum Locke and Martin Stabe

House prices in the UK are a perennial topic of interest. But different indices measure house prices in different ways, causing confusion among home-owners, who can’t be sure whether their house price is going up or down.

This has become particularly noticeable in recent years as the indices readings have diverged.

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Kate Allen

He calls it the biggest story of our lifetime – and he’s on a mission to make sure that everybody knows it.

Hans Rosling – rockstar data wrangler, global stats icon, Swedish health professor – will use a one-hour BBC TV programme on Thursday to try to convince us we don’t know what we think we know about the world.

This vital truth: the global population boom is fizzling out. “This is a fact that media have missed. It has failed to communicate,” Rosling told the FT.

The rate of growth of the world’s population accelerated sharply over the past half a century, leading to much rhetoric about over-population and exhaustion of the planet’s resources.

But, as Rosling will argue in tomorrow night’s programme, the world’s population is set to plateau by the end of the century. All that Malthusian rhetoric about the population timebomb? Redundant. Read more

Kate Allen

South Korea is perhaps the most over-educated country in the world.

More people are enrolled in its universities and colleges than are in the target age group for tertiary education. This is probably due to older people and foreigners. Read more

Kate Allen

Japan is set to raise its consumption (sales) tax for the first time since 1997.

The last time the sales tax rate was raised, the hike was blamed by some economists for the country’s subsequent slump into recession (though the Asian financial crisis was perhaps a bigger contributor).

Japan GDP Read more

Kate Allen

The Office for National Statistics’ release of data on UK share ownership has highlighted an important and far-reaching trend: the remarkable rise in share ownership by non-UK companies and individuals.

But the really crucial fact is that this comes mostly at the expense of the City’s traditional supremos: the insurance companies and pension funds.

Change in shareholdings Read more

It’s no secret that the US is at the centre of global trade. But how is what it trades with the world changing? The US International Trade Commission, the independent government agency which investigates anti-dumping cases in the US and also acts as a trade data clearinghouse, this week put out its annual “Shifts in US Merchandise” report. Here’s four things in the report worth thinking about:

1. Americans love their cars and their iPhones. They were the biggest contributors to the $10bn widening of the US trade deficit in 2012. Read more

Kate Allen

Provincial elections are about to take place in parts of Sri Lanka, in particular the nation’s Tamil-dominated northern province. This is a politically charged moment, as the government is gaining a reputation for being increasingly authoritarian and has faced UN criticism over its track record on human rights. Religious tensions are also mounting.

The elections are expected to be tense, particularly in the north which has been under federal government control since the late 1980s.

Any new period of renewed political wrangles could pose a threat to the country’s economy, which has recovered well since the end of the long-running civil war in 2009. Read more