How to Show Percentages as Rates Per 100,000

When displaying data, using percentages isn’t always optimal, especially if you’re dealing with a very tiny number. In those cases, it may be more effective to display data as a rate per 100,000 or per 1 million, depending on how small of a number you have. Below, I’ll show you how you can move between percentages and rates.

Converting between percentages and rates

To convert percentages into rates, it’s as simple as multiplying the percent by the population you’re trying to calculate a rate for. Some common examples are calculating rates per 10,000, per 100,000, or per 1 million.

Let’s start with a simple stat: there are approximately 50 million Microsoft 365 subscribers in the world. Out of a global population of 7.9 billion people, that is 0.6% of the total population. Let’s frame this a different way, as a rate. To do this, I can multiply that percentage by 100,000, which returns a value of 633. That tells us that for every 100,000 people, 633 of them have Microsoft 365 subscriptions. You can multiply this by 10 to say that for every 1 million people, more than 6,300 will be subscribers.

Now let’ do the reverse. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are approximately 1 in 292 million. To convert this into percentages, we’ll need to divide 1 by 292,200,000. The result is a very tiny value of 0.0000000034. As you can see, this isn’t very helpful in using this as a percentage. And this is why using a rate is more appropriate.

Calculating 1 per a larger base

If you’re working with that incredibly small value, you can convert that into a rate of 1 per some larger number. All you need to do is calculate the inverse. To do that, take 1 and divide it by the value. In the above example, it would be 1/0.0000000034, which would return a value of 292 million.

Creating a quick template

If you have some small percentages you want to convert into percentages, you can create a quick template to help you determine which rate you may want to use. In some cases, you may not want to just use 1 per x but instead x per 100,000, or some larger figure. You’re communicating the same value, it’s just a matter of how you decide to do it.

Below, I’ve collected some data showing the percentage of dog owners in the world, the percentage of people who have green eyes, and the percentage of people with red hair:

Table showing percentage of dog owners, people with green eyes, and people with red hair.

I’m going to create four additional columns, one to calculate the inverse (1 per x), rate per 10,000, rate per 100,000, and per 1,000,000. For the last three columns, all you need to do is to multiply the percentage by those base numbers. And here’s what the results will look like:

A quick way to check these results is by calculating the percentages. 60,000/1,000,000 is equal to 6%, 20,000/1,000,000 is 2%, and 15,000/1,000,000 is 1.5%.

The advantage of using the larger population number is that your results will stand out more and can be easier to visualize on a chart:

Rates per population showing the occurrence of dog owners, people with green eyes, and people with red hair.

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