|Income Inequality and Wealth Distribution by Country|
Income inequality and wealth distribution are two different concepts, in that income inequality focuses exclusively on the income side of the equation while wealth distribution looks at how the ownership of assets in a given society is shared among its members. However, both measures help chart the economic gap within a country's wealthiest and poorest citizens. Over the last ten years, economic inequality has been growing, particularly in developed countries where, historically, it had been more contained.
By Valentina Pasquali. Project coordinators: Denise Bedell and Alessandro Magno
Data is from the World Bank Development Indicators.
According to the World Bank, the GINI coefficient "measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution." Therefore it is used as an indication of income inequality within countries. Practically, it measures the area between the Lorenz curve, a standard indicator of the distribution of income within a community, and a hypothetical line of absolute equality, expressed as a percentage of the maximum area under the line. In this index, 0 represents perfect equality, while 100 perfect inequality.
Other widely used measures of economic inequality are the percentage of people living with under US$2 a day (at 2005 international prices) and the share of national income held by the wealthiest 10% of the population.
According to World Bank data, income inequality tends to be lower in Northern Europe, with countries such as Sweden, Norway and Finland showing some of the world's lowest GINI coefficients. It is also surprisingly low in much less affluent countries like Afghanistan and Ethiopia. The highest levels of income inequality were found, in the last decade, in countries such as the Central African Republic, Honduras, Angola, Haiti, South Africa and Namibia.
The Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) maintains its own GINI index and related statistics for member countries. According to a 2011 OECD report, "over the two decades prior to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased by an average 1.7% a year in OECD countries. In a large majority of them, however, the household incomes of the richest 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, so widening income inequality." In the late 2000s, Chile had the highest GINI coefficient, after taxes and transfers, among OECD member countries. The United States, Turkey and Mexico came right before it. At the other end of the scale, Slovenia, Denmark and Norway led the ranking with the lowest levels of income inequality.
In terms of absolute poverty, Liberia has one of the highest percentages of people living with less than US$2 a day (at 2005 international prices,) preceded by a long series of African countries, including Madagascar and Malawi. In the Seychelles, Comoros, Namibia, South Africa and Haiti, the 10% of the population at the top of the economic ladder control the highest share of national income compared to the rest of the world.
The website Worldmapper.com offers a variety of maps, conveying visually a host of different demographic and economic indicators. Here are a few relevant ones.
World Wealth Distribution Year 1500
World Wealth distribution Year 2015 (forecast)
Data is from the World Bank Development Indicators and from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Figures are the latest available for each country and reference years vary as indicated. Wealth distribution maps are from Worldmapper.com