The idea that more wealth for some will translate into more wealth for everyone has deep roots. Today, data shows that the gap between the richest and the poorest has never been wider.

Author: Luca Ventura
Project Coordinator: B Pham

In 1912, Italian sociologist and statistician Corrado Gini developed a means of measuring wealth distribution within societies known as the Gini index or Gini coefficient: its value ranges from 0 (or 0%) to 1 (or 100%), with the former representing perfect equality (wealth distributed evenly) and the latter representing perfect inequality (wealth held in few hands).

Today, the Gini coefficient is still one the most widely used tool to chart the economic gap within a country's wealthiest and poorest citizens. The World Economic Forum (WEF) gathered data from the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other sources, and along with other indicators to create the Inclusive Development Index 2018, a snapshot of the gap between rich and poor.

According to the WEF index, income inequality has risen or remained stagnant in 20 of the 29 advanced economies while poverty increased in 17. Although most emerging economies have improved in these respects—84% of them registered a decline in poverty—their absolute levels of inequality remain much higher. In addition, the report states, both in advanced and emerging economies, wealth is significantly more unequally distributed than income: "This problem has improved little in recent years, with wealth inequality rising in 49 economies."

Income inequality has increased more rapidly in North America, China, India and Russia than anywhere else notes the World Inequality Report 2018 produced by the World Inequality Lab, a research center based at the Paris School of Economics. The difference between Western Europe and the United States in this regard is particularly striking: “While the top 1% income share was close to 10% in both regions in 1980, it rose only slightly to 12% in 2016 in Western Europe while it shot up to 20% in the United States. Meanwhile, in the United States, the bottom 50% income share decreased from more than 20% in 1980 to 13% in 2016.” Continental Europe, the report emphasized, saw income inequality moderated by educational and wage-setting policies that were relatively more favorable to low and middle-income groups and a lesser decline in the progressivity of its tax code.

Another problem to consider is that when massive proportions of a nation's income and wealth are concentrated in the hands of a few, overall economic growth appears to suffer. A 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund found that “if the income share of the top 20% (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down” while “an increase in the income share of the bottom 20% (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth.”


Country
Net Income Gini Index
Wealth Gini Index
GDP per Capita (USD)
Employment Rate (%)
Median Daily Income (USD PPP)
Poverty Rate (%)
Life Expectancy (Years)

Albania

38.60

44.80

4,712

42.10

6.50

7.70

68.80

Algeria

32.20

75.80

4,846

38.90

7.20

3.90

66.30

Argentina

38.60

72.30

10,149

57.00

14.60

4.50

67.60

Armenia

36.00

58.30

3,925

52.90

5.70

13.50

66.90

Australia

33.20

65.20

55,671

60.90

44.40

12.80

71.90

Azerbaijan

38.60

51.00

5,859

61.90

8.50

2.70

64.70

Bangladesh

39.50

57.90

1,030

59.70

2.90

59.20

62.40

Belgium

25.90

63.00

45,308

49.10

43.80

9.10

71.10

Bolivia

43.50

74.20

2,458

70.50

9.30

12.90

62.50

Brazil

44.90

83.20

10,826

59.30

11.20

9.30

65.50

Bulgaria

33.90

52.90

7,929

49.80

15.30

3.80

66.40

Burundi

31.60

56.30

218

82.30

1.30

90.10

52.20

Cambodia

36.60

70.00

1,078

80.70

N/A

N/A

58.10

Cameroon

39.80

74.10

1357

72.70

3.60

45.00

50.30

Canada

31.20

73.50

50232

60.80

49.20

12.60

72.30

Chad

38.30

69.30

860

67.40

2.40

66.50

46.10

Chile

45.90

78.60

15,020

58.30

14.20

3.10

70.50

China

51.00

78.90

6,894

67.50

7.70

12.10

68.50

Colombia

48.90

74.20

7,526

61.80

9.00

13.10

65.20

Costa Rica

45.70

69.40

9,714

56.10

14.50

4.20

69.80

Croatia

29.30

49.80

14,372

45.10

15.90

1.90

69.40

Czech Republic

25.60

64.80

21,707

57.00

24.30

5.90

69.40

Denmark

25.30

80.90

60,268

58.30

44.70

5.50

71.20

Dominican Republic

44.60

N/A

6,09

55.90

9.80

6.90

65.10

Egypt

47.00

91.70

2,724

43.60

4.90

16.10

62.20

El Salvador

38.90

65.70

3,803

59.00

7.60

9.80

64.10

Estonia

34.70

56.40

17,853

57.60

22.10

12.50

69.00

Finland

25.60

76.70

45,709

53.00

43.50

6.30

71.00

France

29.90

70.20

42,013

49.70

44.70

8.20

72.60

Georgia

40.50

66.80

4,080

59.60

5.10

25.30

66.40

Germany

29.00

79.10

45,552

57.70

45.30

9.50

71.30

Ghana

38.30

66.10

1,708

72.60

4.40

34.90

55.30

Greece

33.20

67.70

22,736

39.40

18.40

14.80

71.90

Guatemala

44.50

N/A

3,100

60.20

5.60

25.30

62.20

Honduras

48.30

N/A

2,138

61.60

4.80

34.80

64.90

Hungary

28.70

45.30

14,840

51.20

18.20

1.00

67.40

Iceland

24.40

46.70

48,614

71.10

43.40

6.50

72.70

India

47.90

83.00

1,861

51.90

2.90

60.40

59.60

Indonesia

45.70

83.70

3,974

63.60

4.60

33.80

62.10

Iran, Islamic Rep.

38.80

67.30

5,758

39.70

12.50

2.50

66.50

Ireland

30.30

81.30

66,787

54.90

38.00

9.20

71.50

Israel

36.90

74.20

33,783

60.30

25.80

19.50

72.80

Italy

33.30

66.00

34,284

42.70

34.30

13.70

72.80

Japan

29.90

60.90

47,608

57.20

34.80

16.10

74.90

Jordan

40.00

76.10

3,258

34.80

8.70

2.10

65.00

Kazakhstam

28.80

92.60

10,570

67.70

9.80

0.40

63.30

Kenya

41.60

77.20

1,143

59.80

N/A

N/A

55.60

Korea, Rep.

30.70

70.00

25,459

58.60

34.20

13.80

73.20

Kyrgyz Republic

34.10

62.90

1,038

58.20

4.40

23.30

63.90

Lao PDR

41.10

84.90

1,643

76.50

2.90

58.50

57.90

Latvia

36.30

53.60

14,715

54.50

25.20

0.90

67.10

Lesotho

49.30

79.80

1,387

48.40

1.50

78.00

46.60

Lithuania

34.20

51.60

15,873

53.90

18.20

2.70

66.10

Luxembourg

28.40

68.10

111,001

55.40

61.80

8.10

71.80

Macedonia. FYR

36.10

56.40

5,223

40.90

9.00

10.00

67.50

Madagascar

37.20

67.10

416

84.60

1.10

91.10

56.90

Malawi

37.30

73.70

482

75.60

1.30

88.40

51.20

Malaysia

42.80

82.00

11,028

61.30

14.10

3.10

66.50

Mali

32.30

64.50

743

61.00

2.00

79.00

51.10

Mauritania

30.30

62.30

1,296

41.80

4.90

23.60

55.10

Mexico

45.90

73.20

9,707

59.70

6.90

11.80

67.40

Moldova

33.70

47.90

2,063

40.20

8.50

1.40

64.90

Mongolia

37.80

57.00

3,895

58.50

8.90

3.20

62.10

Morocco

35.70

81.40

3,196

44.40

N/A

N/A

65.10

Mozambique

39.90

71.10

515

59.80

1.40

88.50

49.60

Nambia

55.00

91.00

6,021

44.50

3.50

47.00

57.50

Nepal

39.50

67.30

682

80.30

3.20

50.90

61.20

Netherlands

26.60

73.00

52,111

59.70

43.30

7.90

72.20

New Zealand

32.50

72.30

36,842

63.90

N/A

10.90

71.60

Nicaragua

43.20

71.90

1,946

60.60

7.40

13.80

63.80

Nigeria

39.00

69.50

2,458

53.60

1.80

77.60

47.70

Norway

24.90

80.50

89,818

61.70

63.80

8.10

72.00

Pakistan

36.20

52.60

1,182

50.90

3.70

39.70

57.80

Panama

46.10

76.30

10,982

61.60

14.50

7.00

68.10

Paraguay

44.90

75.20

3,928

67.70

11.70

7.40

65.20

Peru

45.40

77.80

6,089

70.60

10.30

9.30

65.70

Philippines

47.90

83.90

2,753

60.90

5.00

33.70

61.10

Poland

32.10

71.70

15,049

53.20

20.50

0.30

68.70

Portugal

34.80

70.90

22,347

51.80

21.20

13.50

71.40

Romania

33.00

62.30

10,081

52.10

8.70

4.50

66.80

Russian Federation

43.90

82.60

11,099

59.70

17.10

0.30

63.40

Rwanda

44.30

73.00

739

82.70

1.60

81.50

56.60

Senegal

34.50

69.80

1,093

51.80

2.40

67.50

58.30

Serbia

34.00

54.20

5,852

42.90

11.30

1.40

67.70

Sierra Leone

32.00

58.70

455

64.80

1.90

81.30

44.40

Singapore

39.80

73.30

52,601

65.70

N/A

N/A

73.90

Slovak Republic

26.10

46.30

19,238

53.50

8.70

8.70

68.10

Slovenia

25.90

55.10

24,387

52.30

30.90

9.40

71.10

South Africa

57.70

86.70

7,504

39.50

4.70

35.90

54.40

Spain

34.30

65.70

31,450

46.90

30.70

15.30

72.40

Sri Lanka

51.40

66.50

3,759

49.10

5.50

16.10

67.00

Sweden

25.70

83.40

56,319

59.90

48.30

8.00

72.00

Switzerland

29.30

69.40

75,726

65.40

55.60

7.80

73.10

Tajikistan

44.70

53.50

968

61.20

5.30

20.00

62.10

Tanzania

42.20

55.20

867

76.50

1.90

79.00

54.20

Thailand

43.70

85.10

5,901

70.80

11.20

1.10

66.80

Tunisia

33.30

69.10

4,265

40.60

7.70

9.10

66.70

Turkey

39.80

81.80

14,071

45.10

13.10

2.40

66.20

Uganda

37.60

68.60

14,071

83.10

2.50

66.60

54.00

Ukraine

26.30

90.10

2,906

53.90

10.20

0.50

64.10

United Kingdom

32.80

73.50

41,603

59.60

39.40

10.90

71.40

United States

37.80

85.90

52,195

58.90

48.90

16.80

69.10

Uruguay

37.00

63.90

14,010

60.10

19.50

1.40

67.90

Vietnam

42.20

74.50

1,770

76.70

6.80

11.60

66.60

Zambia

49.50

81.00

1,622

69.70

1.60

74.30

53.70

Zimbabwe

39.80

73.00

909

78.30

3.40

47.20

52.10

Source: The World Economic Forum's Inclusive Development Index 2018. N/A — Not available.