Figures and estimates are from the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook Database, April 2013.
2013 Ranking of Coutries from Richest to Poorest, According to Gross Domestic Product Based on Purchasing-Power-Parity (PPP) Per Capita
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There are two standard methods of measuring the wealth of countries and how rich or poor its inhabitants are. The measure most often used is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which represents the size of a country's economy. A refinement of this is per-capita GDP, which is a measure of the average welfare and affluence, or poverty, of residents of a country. However, GDP and per-capita GDP are less useful when comparing economies across national boundaries - which one must do to determine the richest or poorest countries in the world - because GDP is expressed in a country's local currency.
The measure that most economists prefer, therefore, is GDP (PPP) ["GDP based on purchasing power parity"] per capita. GDP (PPP) per capita compares generalized differences in living standards on the whole between nations because PPP takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of countries, rather than using just exchange rates, which may distort the real differences in income. The indicator measures GDP converted to a common set of prices in a common currency (international dollars, also called Geary-Khamis dollars) so that real quantity comparisons can be made both between countries and over time.
In 2013, wealth continues to be highly concentrated in a few Gulf states, Europe and North America. With a per-capita GDP (PPP) of over 105 thousand dollars, Qatar dominates the ranking. Luxembourg comes a distant second with close to 80 thousand dollars and Singapore third with just more than 61 thousand dollars. The drop of per-capita GDP from the top of the ranking to almost all other countries is precipitous. Norway, which comes fourth with nearly 57 thousand dollars, has a per-capita GDP (PPP) that's almost half that of Qatar.
Poverty remains extensive throughout the world, particularly in South Asia and Africa. In fact, Africa dominates the bottom of the ranking, occupying 9 of the last ten spots. The Democratic Republic of Congo is last with a per-capita GDP (PPP) of less than 400 dollars. Zimbabwe, Burundi and Liberia come just before it. The first non-African country to be found among the world's poorest nations is Afghanistan, with just over a thousand dollars.
GDP is not a perfect measure to describe the wellbeing and quality of life of populations, and there are other indexes that take into account other variables such as life expectancy, income distribution, literacy, etc. - for example, the UN Human Development Index and the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare. In fact, GDP is often considered imperfect even to measure overall economic strength. (See the report released in 2009 by a commission chaired by Nobel Prize-winning economists Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz and Professor Amartya Sen, and by Professor Jean-Paul Fitoussi. Download PDF and "Beyond GDP" from the European Commission). Still, when taken with PPP, it is a useful tool for comparing economies across national boundaries.
For a further discussion of Gross Domestic Product Purchasing Power Parity (GDP PPP), click here.
For definitions of other indicators, click here.
For a list of countries in the regions listed in the regional table, click here.