Editor's note

We humans love to count. Our salary, our weight, the number of jellybeans there are in a jar – and, of course, the number of times that the Earth has gone around the sun. As the data and math editor, it’s my job to help scholars tell the stories behind the numbers in everyday life. This year, through statistics, graphs and maps, we explored explosive issues, from the rural-urban divide to 4th of July fireworks. As another year ticks by, I also took a look back at some of our infographics from 2017 – and they were diverse. Researchers at Stanford University scoured millions of internet comments to understand why people troll. Andrew Kolodny at Brandeis University used data to explore America’s tragic opioid crisis. Another study checked the resumes of thousands of business leaders to bust a major myth about college dropouts. Read my list of favorite charts to revisit them all. Aviva Rutkin

Speaking of myth busting, behavioral economists have been big in the news this year, particularly after one of their pioneers, Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, won a Nobel prize. The burgeoning discipline focuses on integrating the way humans actually behave with economics, a field that traditionally assumes people always act rationally. (Did someone say “bitcoin”?) Thaler, Harvard’s Cass Sunstein and others have learned otherwise, and have used these insights to improve government policies to enhance citizens’ welfare, such as by increasing participation in retirement plans or tweaking nutrition labels to make them more effective. And the stories we publish on the topic tend to be among the most interesting ones I work on because they show, so clearly, how the work of scholars and economists affect our lives and can make them better. They’re also some of the most popular articles I edit. Here’s a handful of stories I published on the topic of behavioral economics this year and why the field matters. Bryan Keogh

Aviva Rutkin

Big Data + Applied Mathematics Editor

Bryan Keogh

Economics + Business Editor

Big Data + Applied Mathematics

Where we’ve been in 2017. rawpixel.com/shutterstock.com

From internet trolls to college dropouts: Our 6 favorite charts from 2017

Aviva Rutkin, The Conversation

How do diverse movies fare in the international box office? What time do trolls like to post their comments? We look back on some of this year's most intriguing graphs and maps.

Inequality is getting worse, but fewer people than ever are aware of it

Jonathan J.B. Mijs, Harvard University

People in some of the most unequal countries in the world think theirs is the paradigm of meritocracy. Can the data help explain this phenomenon?

The myth of the college dropout

Jonathan Wai, Duke University; Heiner Rindermann, Chemnitz University of Technology

While the media glamorizes famous college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, the reality is that most successful people in the U.S. went to – and finished – college.

Why aren't Hollywood films more diverse? The international box office might be to blame

Roberto Pedace, Scripps College

An analysis of more than 800 top-grossing films suggests diverse movies struggle in front of international audiences.

Why prison building will continue booming in rural America

John M. Eason, Texas A&M University

The number of prisons in the US swelled between 1970 and 2000, from 511 to nearly 1,663. Here's the story of why one town in Arkansas welcomed a correction facility.

The opioid epidemic in 6 charts

Andrew Kolodny, Brandeis University

Your guide to a public health crisis that's likely to get worse.

Our experiments taught us why people troll

Justin Cheng, Stanford University; Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Cornell University; Jure Leskovec, Stanford University; Michael Bernstein, Stanford University

You might think that trolling on the internet is done by a small, vocal minority of sociopaths. But what if all trolls aren’t born trolls? What if they are ordinary people like you and me?

Economy + Business

Richard Thaler, laureate in economics, receives his Nobel in Stockholm in December. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer via Reuters

Behavioral economics finally goes mainstream: 4 essential reads

Bryan Keogh, The Conversation

After winning its second Nobel prize, the burgeoning field has demonstrated its importance in economics and power in making government policy more effective.

'Default' choices have big impact, but how to make sure they’re used ethically?

Mary Steffel, Northeastern University; Elanor Williams, Indiana University; Ruth Pogacar, University of Cincinnati

Defaults are powerful tools that policymakers and marketers can use to nudge us to make certain choices, whether in our interest or in theirs. How do we ensure they're used responsibly?

Do people like government 'nudges'? Study says: Yes

Cass Sunstein, Harvard University

Government initiatives to prod people to make better decisions got a lot of attention after Richard Thaler won a Nobel in economics for his working on nudging.

Economist who helped behavioral 'nudges' go mainstream wins Nobel

Jay L. Zagorsky, The Ohio State University

Richard Thaler won the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics for his groundbreaking work incorporating how humans actually behave into economic thinking.

Can Trump resist the power of behavioral science's dark side?

Jon M Jachimowicz, Columbia University

Dozens of governments have been using the insights from the burgeoning field to 'nudge' citizens in ways that improve their well-being. But some worry Trump might use it for less altruistic ends.