"The World By Income"
We’ve just released a working paper reviewing the Bank’s classification of countries by income. As Tariq Khokhar and Umar Serajuddin pointed out in their recent blog about whether we should call countries developing or not, there’s a strong appetite for classifying and ranking countries. Where is the best country to live, according to the OECD? (it depends, but it might be Australia, Norway or Sweden.) Which are making the most social progress, according to the Social Progress Imperative? (Norway and Sweden again.) Where is it easiest to do business, according to the World Bank? (Singapore.) Which countries have highest or lowest human development, according to the United Nations Development Program? (that’s Norway once more, and Niger is lowest.).
Using GNI per capita
The World Bank has used a specific measure of economic development - gross national income (GNI) per capita - for the purpose of ranking and classifying countries for over 50 years. The first compendium of these statistics was called the World Bank Atlas, published in 1966 - it had just two estimates for each country: its population, and its per capita gross national product in US dollars, both for 1964. Then, the highest reported average income per capita was Kuwait, with $3,290. In second place was the United States, with $3,020, third was Sweden, a fair way behind, with $2,040. The bottom three were Ethiopia, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), and Malawi, with GNP per capita estimates of $50, $45 and $40 respectively (GNI used to be called GNP). It probably comes as no surprise that today Norway is top. Malawi is still bottom.