In my constant quest to find the pot of gold at the end of the Internet, I discovered this gem.
Does this make sense to you? As far as I know, there's only one cause of debt: borrowing money. Whether that is "bad" debt depends on the circumstances surrounding efforts to pay it back.
In short, there are two big problems with the statistics above.
1) Data are from surveys of where people say their debt came from (revealed in tiny font at the bottom of the picture). Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I think more people are apt to blame their debt on external events, such as a pay cut, rather than admit they are spending beyond their means. It's more sympathetic and less hard on the ego to say that you were forced into debt rather than led down the path willingly.
2) After losing a job or taking a pay cut, if you continue to spend at the same rate as before, in my book that still counts as "going wild in the aisles." If expectations remain static as situations change, is it really accurate to blame the situation (less pay) for the outcome, rather than one's personal failure to adapt to the new circumstances? If it were the opposite case and income had just increased, I don't think many people would say "I blame this higher wage for my not having time to go shopping and spend as much as I want" (holding hours worked constant, of course). The real problem is not adjusting behavior to fit the new constraints that reality imposes.
I'm sure some people end up in bad debt through no fault of their own, or as a result of unavoidable expenses or unforeseen changes in income which may coincide with less opportunities for work. However, I don't think that number is large enough to make up 48% of all cases of bad debt. Further, by claiming that a pay cut is the largest cause of bad debt this chart implies that people are largely incapable of changing their consumption patterns to fit a more modest standard of living, which is not a very good lesson to live by.
If anything, the big difference between "perceived" and "real" causes of debt would be better labeled as "how I think other people got into debt" and "how I explain my own debt" respectively. Knowing only a little about psychology, it is unsurprising that respondents hold other people responsible for their choices (spending too much) but apply a much more ego-gratifying standard when considering themselves.
Maybe the 21st century version of old proverb "don't take any wooden nickels" will become "don't trust statistics off of online infographics." Less catchy perhaps, but much more common application!