Understatement overdone

Standard & Poor’s gives Japan bad marks. AA‑ instead of AA. Japan spends more than it earns. And it is too old. That’s what this diagram in the Journal wants to show.

Graying population. - Source: Wall Street Journal Europe, 2011-01-28, page 15.
Quelle: Source: Wall Street Journal Europe, 2011–01–28, page 15.

Count the pixels. The older population grows three times higher. The total population just 20 percent. Even so both series look equally steep. Or flat. Because: Comparing two developments over time is hard. On different levels even harder. We’ve known that for a long time. It applies to proportions, too.

Here we can understand what S&P meant. Because: This diagram shows the proportion only. In comparison to other proportions. And not to itself.

Proportion of Elderly Population by Country (Aged 65 years and over). - Quelle: Statistics Bureau of Japan (Hrsg.), The Statistical Handbook of Japan 2010,Chapter 2: Population.
Quelle: Statistics Bureau of Japan (Hrsg.), The Statistical Handbook of Japan 2010, Chapter 2: Population. Here Sixty-Five-Year-Olds and a longer period. Doesn’t matter.