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But looking at data this way can be deceiving also: that the "white female lagged behind" is because they already had a much higher life expectancy, which makes it harder to make improvements. The same is true for the larger increase in the black male cohort: they're just catching up with the average.

As you say, looking at the data in many ways is the trick!


I have to say I prefer the original as I think its more the point of the chart to show the absolute life expectancy, not its rate of increase among sub groups.

What happens if you chart the increase not in % but in years from a common base?


It might be worth making the lines in your graph different colors. I find it a little hard to keep track as it is.

Also, I'm not sure % increase is better than difference in actual number of years.


anon and Matthew: I agree that plotting the age is better than plotting the percent change. However, don't expect the conclusion to change one bit because all the life expectancies are in the 60-80 range and the average percent changes is 10% so we are talking about a total change of 6-8 years (it's more like 5 for white females and 9.5 for black males), depending on which segment.

James Pearce

Actually I prefer this chart.

Charts should tell a story. And if they also provoke further routes of questioning, all the better.

The story from the original chart was "life expectancy increases, but differently per demographic"

The story from the new chart is "life expectancy increases, but differently per demographic...


Anyway, you haven't learnt anything less with this second representation - but yet an exciting new area of research has opened up.

Mission accomplished.

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Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
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