Using Excel to View US Pre-School Attendance Rate

Quote of the Day

We see a lot of feature-driven product design in which the cost of features is not properly accounted. Features can have a negative value to customers because they make the products more difficult to understand and use. We are finding that people like products that just work. It turns out that designs that just work are much harder to produce than designs that assemble long lists of features.

Douglas Crockford, author of JavaScript: The Good Parts. I encounter many marketing people who view product definition as the mere listing of features. In reality, there is a balance that must be achieved.

Figure 1: Graph Being Discussed by Jeffery Sachs. (Source)

Figure 1: Graph Being Discussed by Jeffery Sachs. (Source)

Jeffrey Sachs was on CSPAN this weekend giving a talk on the competitive challenges the US faces with other nations. During his presentation, he showed a chart (Figure 1) that ranks the US as 30th among reporting OECD countries with respect to preschool participation rates for 4-year-old children. The discussion was interesting, but I found myself focusing on the technical aspects of the graphs he was using. I am always looking for good Excel examples for use in training my staff, and the y-axis in Figure 1 contains formatted text, which is something I have not shown my staff how to do.

Figure 2: My Excel Version of Figure 1.

Figure 2: My Excel Version of Figure 1.

In Figure 2, I show how my duplication of Figure 1 using Excel. For those who like to follow along, my workbook is here. To highlight the formatting of the y-axis, I used green and red colors instead of bold font.

My process was straightforward:

  • Use Power Query to grab the data from this web site.
  • Generate a bar chart.
  • Use the method of Jon Peltier to format the y-axis.

While this is not a sophisticated chart, it does provide an end-to-end example of web scraping and charting.

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