How much control do you have over your standard of living?

Global Development

Key Points

  • An individual’s standard of living is overwhelmingly determined by factors out of their control. As such poverty is largely entrenched from birth.
  • A person’s nationality and the level of income of their parents account for over 80% of global differences in standards of living. Nationality alone explains almost two-thirds of the difference.
  • All other factors such as effort, gender and ethnicity account for less than 20% of global differences in standards of living.


Analysis by the World Bank finds that where you are born and who your parents are have huge implications on your standard of living. Nationality and parent’s income level account for over 80% of global differences in standards of living, as can be seen in the chart below.

Control over standard of living

This analysis provides further evidence to demonstrate that one’s standard of living is mainly due to circumstance rather than effort. A child born to parents in poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo (one of the world’s poorest countries) will almost certainly live their life in extremely different conditions to a child born to middle class parents in Australia.

This has profound implications in regards to how one perceives poverty. Overwhelmingly it is not an individual’s own fault for being in poverty since they had no control over where their were born and how wealthy their parents are. This creates a profound impetus to address this injustice.


World Bank 2009