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Please consider the following sentence:

The bar graph represents literacy rates by country in 1990 and 2000 across six different countries for men and women.

Does using "represents ... by" to describe one of the graph axes sound natural? I have not see such a structure before.

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In this context, by has nothing to do with represents. It explains how the figures are divided into categories. In the same way, one could say

The salary figures in the report are grouped by department.

See section 3.3 of the definition of by from the Oxford Dictionary.

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