Economic Progress

Visualising the world economy and population in one chart

Morgan Brannon
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Economic Progress

Following the International Comparison Program (ICP) 2011 final report release from last October, there was particular interest in the charts presenting the results. To give a deeper explanation of one of the most popular charts, we’ve recently produced this video:

Real GDP Per Capita and Shares of Global Population, ICP 2011

 Source:  ICP,

Incorporating three dimensions: population share, real GDP per capita, and total real GDP

The chart summarizes the structure of the world economy and the distribution of its population based on ICP 2011 results. It incorporates three dimensions for each economy: population share, real GDP per capita, and share of world total real GDP. The chart does not show the income distribution of the world’s population.

The economies are arranged in order of GDP per capita along the horizontal axis and presented as rectangles. The width along the horizontal scale corresponds to each economy’s share of the world’s population. GDP per capita is shown on the vertical axis as the bar height for each country. Each economy’s size in terms of its share of world total real GDP is thus represented by the area of its rectangle, which is the product of GDP per capita and population.

72% of the global population lives in economies below the world’s average real GDP per capita

Notice that the line for the world average GDP per capita in real terms is 13,460 USD. The intersection of the average line with the rectangles shows the disparity in GDP per capita across the world. About 72% of the world’s population lives in economies that are below that average. The average real GDP per capita is calculated by dividing the world total real GDP by the world total population. In other words, it is the weighted average of per capita GDP of all the countries, with population being the weights.

The United States, with the 12th largest GDP per capita, is placed at the far right. The remaining 11 economies with the highest GDP per capita are not visible in the chart because together they account for less than 0.6 percent of the world’s population. India and China have large shares in the world economy, as displayed by their large rectangles, but the chart exhibits that this is not due to their standard of living indicated by GDP per capita – their GDP per capita is below the world average –, rather because of their large shares of the global population.

This article originally appeared on The World Bank’s Open Data Blog. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Morgan Brannon is a World Bank Development Data Group Consultant and key member of the International Comparison Program (ICP) team as well as the Statistical Development and Partnership team. Marko Rissanen, a Finnish national, is a Statistician at the World Bank Development Data Group in Washington, DC. Mizuki Yamanaka is a Statistician in the Development Data Group at the World Bank.

Image: A boy touches a wall lighted by colour rays at an exhibition hall in Wuhan. REUTERS/China Daily.

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Economic ProgressGlobal GovernanceYouth Perspectives
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