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Data manipulation: the illegal operations at the histogram timeline

Last but not least in the series about types of data manipulation: the illegal operations at the histogram timeline.


The correct way to present information about changes in unemployment rate between two months in various years is demonstrated in the first graph, which shows that the rate stays nearly constant. However, the designer wants to convey the message that the rate has decreased. Therefore, they arrange the bars on the chart (second graph) in a deliberate manner, giving them the same color and starting the Y-axis at a random point, to create a false impression of a declining trend. This practice of misplacing the bars is illegal as it violates the principles of histograms, which are used to present distributions of variables and not to compare them. Unlike bar charts, histograms cannot have their bars rearranged because it changes the meaning of the data.


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