Loan Modification Data: Information in Need of a Pie Chart

by: Tim Iacono

I’ve got nothing against horizontally stacked (?) bar charts with only one group of data such as the results of the U.S. government’s loan modification program portrayed in this story at ProPublica (spotted at Barry’s Big Picture blog). But in my view, this was a dataset that was just crying out for a pie chart.

There’s really not much that needs to be added to the graphic above, that is, aside from the fact that those 35% who made it through to “permanent” status have a freakishly high median back-end debt-to-income ratio of over 60%, making the use of the word “permanent” to describe their status premature at best.

For those new to this story, HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) was much more of a bank rescue program than one for homeowners since most people who entered the trial couldn’t make it through to permanent status and, for those who did, the odds of surviving such an onerous debt load for more than a year or two are not good. The banks, however, were able to stretch out the entire process, delaying the realization of even bigger losses.