Can you visualize the structure of the world economy and population in one chart?


This page in:

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.

We look forward to sharing more videos on the ICP 2011 results in the near future.
For more information, visit or e-mail us at [email protected]


Morgan Brannon

Project Analyst, Development Data Group

Marko Rissanen

Program Manager, Development Data Group, World Bank

Mizuki Yamanaka

Statistician, Development Data Group

Henock Kebede
February 26, 2015

I love the way this video explains the comparison of GDP per capita and PPP among countries. The data viz made it simple in explaining the relationship to real GDP, Population and finally showing how many countries are above/below the world average line. All this in less than 3 minutes. It'd have taken me a bit longer to grasp if I read it as an article. Awesome job!

February 26, 2015

Many thanks, it’s especially encouraging that you have grasped all that we have explained!

February 26, 2015

Great job explaining the rather tricky concept of purchasing power parity and "real" GDP! It would be really interesting to see the same chart using 2011 GDP converted using market rates instead of PPPs, and then the chart as it was in 2005 (using the previous 2005 ICP).

February 26, 2015

Thank you! We certainly intend to publish more charts and videos so we will keep those stimulating ideas in mind.

February 26, 2015

Nice work...I have a question--who's the audience (or who's this for)? Depending on the audience or the ones it's trying to reach, it may be beneficial to add more explanation on GDP and PPP, and their differences and similarities ...

February 27, 2015

Thank you very much for your idea, which we will consider in the future. The chart received many queries when it was published in 2014 so the intention is to address that audience by breaking down the construction of the chart. For those interested, the FAQ page of the ICP, provides more information on the relationship between the exchange rates and PPPs.

Matei Popescu
June 22, 2018

Great way to present these data . Clear and succinct .
Very helpful. Thanks !