Mind the Gap

Global Development

Mind the Gap

Have you ever wondered how large the gap in living standards is between countries? Or how this has changed over time?

An excellent resource to allow you to look at the evidence in a visually engaging and user friendly way is http://www.gapminder.org/

For example, to explore how the Wealth and Health of Nations has changed over time click on the picture below to open Gapminder’s interactive display.

Gap Minder picture

Gapminder also has a series of brief and informative YouTube clips, such as the following video that shows how 200 countries have developed over the last 200 years in just 4 minutes.


The World Cup is an Uneven Playing Field

Global Development

A country’s chance of winning the World Cup is strongly related to the size of its population and how rich the population is. Countries with bigger populations have a larger pool from which talented players can be sourced and richer countries are better able to nurture their players. All, except two (Uruguay and Colombia), of the top 15 ranked World Cup teams are from countries that have populations over 8 million people and income per person over US$12,000 a year. These countries have among the highest incomes and largest populations in the world and appear in the top right of the chart below.

Final World Cup Graph

Between the World Cup countries, an uneven playing field still exists. The richest qualifying country, Switzerland, has around 80 times more income per person, than the poorest qualifying country, Cameroon. While the largest country in terms of population, the United States, has almost 100 times more people that the smallest country in terms of population, Uruguay.

To learn more about just how uneven the playing field is and what life is like in the poorer World Cup countries, check out this blog http://mattdarvas.com/2014/06/18/the-poorest-world-cup-nations/


World Bank 2014 <http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/world-development-indicators>

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 http://www.arts.cornell.edu/poverty/kanbur/InequalityPapers/Milanovic.pdf