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I noticed that Google released a new tool a few months ago – Google Public Data Explorer. It automates charting from public data sources.

I’m not sure it works very well.

E.g. Comparing US, Japanese and Chinese GDP/capita over time

The Japanese GDP/capita numbers must be wrong. As we all know, Japan’s economy was going gangbusters until 1991, whereupon it went into a Lost Decade where economic growth went stagnant. And yet the biggest and most sustained increase in GDP/capita is between 1990 and 1995. The only way that is possible is if the number of people in Japan rapidly shrank during that time.

I did some research (ie I used Google Images and typed Japanese GDP/capita) and I was right:

As you can see, GDP per capita does not spike in 1995. There’s something severely wrong with the Google-generated graph.

Similarly, I suspect the US GDP/capita is wrong too. It’s just too smooth.

But I also found this graph which is very cool:

Edit: What’s worrying is the data set I used is an official data set (which should be verified):

Edit 2: The source of the problem is not Google. It’s the World Bank data set it uses:



  1. Hmm, you’re right. Now that I look at it again, the log graph that I produced also peaks in 1995. How odd, its rather counter-intuitive that it peaks halfway through the Lost Decade.

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