Over 2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart
All major powers compared by GDP from the year 1 AD
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Long before the invention of modern day maps or gunpowder, the planet’s major powers were already duking it out for economic and geopolitical supremacy.
Today’s chart tells that story in the simplest terms possible. By showing the changing share of the global economy for each country from 1 AD until now, it compares economic productivity over a mind-boggling time period.
Originally published in a research letter by Michael Cembalest of JP Morgan, we’ve updated it based on the most recent data and projections from the IMF. If you like, you can still find the original chart (which goes to 2008) at The Atlantic. It’s also worth noting that the original source for all the data up until 2008 is from the late Angus Maddison, a famous economic historian that published estimates on population, GDP, and other figures going back to Roman times.
A Major Caveat
If you looked at the chart in any depth, you probably noticed a big problem with it. The time periods between data points aren’t equal – in fact, they are not close at all.
The first gap on the x-axis is 1,000 years and the second is 500 years. Then, as we get closer to modernity, the chart uses mostly 10 year intervals. Changing the scale like this is a big data visualization “no no”, as rightly pointed out in a blog post by The Economist.
While we completely agree, we have a made an exception in this case. Why? Because getting good economic data from the early 20th century is already difficult enough – and so trying to find data in regular intervals before then seems like a fool’s errand. Likewise, a stacked bar chart with different years also doesn’t really do this story justice.
We encountered similar historical data issues in our Richest People of Human History graphic, and at the end of the day decided it was primarily for fun. Like today’s chart, it has its share of imperfections – but ultimately, it provides a great amount of context and serves as a conversation starter.
Caveats aside, there are many stories that materialize from this simple chart. They include the colossal impact of the Industrial Revolution on the West, as well as the momentum behind the re-emergence of Asia.
But there’s one other story that ties it all together: the exponential rate of human economic growth that occurred over the last century.
For thousands of years, economic progress was largely linear and linked to population growth. Without machines or technological innovations, one person could only produce so much with their time and resources.
More recently, innovations in technology and energy allowed the “hockey stick” effect to come into play.
It happened in Western Europe and North America first, and now it’s happening in other parts of the world. As this technological playing field evens, economies like China and India – traditionally some of the largest economies throughout history – are now making their big comeback.
Editor’s note: We have adjusted the main graphic as of Sep 10, 2017 to change the description of the chart. It now says “Share of GDP (World Powers)” instead of the previous “Share of world GDP”, which was technically an inaccurate description.
The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets in the Last 10 Years
This telling chart shows how national wealth markets have changed over the past decade, highlighting the biggest winners and losers.
The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets
A lot can change in a decade.
Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent the world’s financial markets into a tailspin, a catalyst for years of economic uncertainty.
At the same time, China’s robust GDP growth was reaching a fever pitch. The country was turning into a wealth creation machine, creating millions of newly-minted millionaires who would end up having a huge impact on wealth markets around the world.
The Ups and Downs of Wealth Markets (2008-2018)
Today’s graphic, using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, looks at national wealth markets, and how they’ve changed since 2008.
Each wealth market is calculated from the sum of individual assets within the jurisdiction, accounting for the value of cash, property, equity, and business interests owned by people in the country. Just like other kinds of markets, wealth can grow or shrink over time.
Here are a few countries and regions that stand out in the report:
Developing Asian Economies
In terms of sheer wealth growth, nothing comes close to countries like China and India. The size of these markets, combined with rapid economic growth, have resulted in triple-digit gains over the last 10 years.
For the world’s two most populous countries, it’s a trend that is expected to continue into the next decade, despite the fact that many millionaire residents are migrating to different jurisdictions.
European nations saw very little growth over the past decade, but the Mediterranean region was particularly hard-hit. In fact, eight of the 20 worst performing wealth markets over the last decade are located along the Mediterranean coast:
|Rank (Out of 90)||Country||% Growth (2008-2018)|
European Bright Spots
There were some bright spots in Europe during this same time period. Malta, Ireland, and Monaco all achieved positive wealth growth at rates higher than 30% over the last 10 years.
While it’s expected to see rapidly-growing economies as prolific producers of wealth, it is much more surprising when mature markets perform so strongly. Singapore and New Zealand fall under that category, as does Australia, which was already a large, mature wealth market.
Australia recently surpassed both Canada and France to become the seventh largest wealth market in the world, and last year alone, over 12,000 millionaires migrated there.
The long-term economic slide of Venezuela has been well documented, and it comes as no surprise that the country saw extreme contraction of wealth over the last decade. Since war-torn countries are not included in the report, Venezuela ranked 90th, which is dead-last on a global basis.
Short Term, Long Term
In 2018, global wealth actually slumped by 5%, dropping from $215 trillion to $204 trillion.
All 90 countries tracked by the report experienced negative growth in wealth, as global stock and property markets dipped. Here’s a look at the wealth markets that were the hardest hit over the past year:
|Wealth Market||Wealth growth (2017 -2018)|
The future outlook is rosier. Global wealth is expected to rise by 43% over the next decade, reaching $291 trillion by 2028. If current trends play out as expected, Vietnam could likely top this list a decade from now with a staggering 200% growth rate.
Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes
Flying can get you almost anywhere, but often people are journeying between two popular destinations. Here we map the busiest air routes globally.
Mapping the World’s Busiest Air Routes
Modern air travel gives us almost unlimited possibilities for getting around.
Whether you are acting on your wanderlust to explore new and exotic destinations, hopping to a familiar island for a well-deserved vacation, or jetsetting to London in the comfort of business class, the modern airline industry can get you almost anywhere you need to go.
But while flying allows us to have unique experiences, it’s often the case that we are all coming and going from many of the same popular destinations. As a result, the world’s busiest air routes have hundreds of flights per day connecting important city pairs together.
Ranking City Pairs
Today’s chart pulls data from OAG, which has compiled a detailed report ranking the busiest domestic and international air routes from around the globe.
It’s worth noting that the data is over the period of March 2018 to February 2019, and it excludes carriers that operate fewer than 500 routes per year.
Let’s dive in to see which city pairs have the most air travel between them.
Domestic routes are far more popular than international routes globally. According to the report, there are 15 domestic routes that have more operating flights per year than any international route anywhere.
Here’s a look at the top 10 domestic routes:
|Rank||Country||City Pair||Flights (Annually)||Carriers|
|#1||🇰🇷||Jeju ↔️ Seoul||79,460||7|
|#2||🇦🇺||Melbourne ↔️ Sydney||54,102||4|
|#3||🇮🇳||Mumbai ↔️ Delhi||45,188||6|
|#4||🇧🇷||São Paulo ↔️ Rio de Janeiro||39,747||3|
|#5||🇯🇵||Fukuoka ↔️ Toyko||39,406||4|
|#6||🇻🇳||Hanoi ↔️ Ho Chi Minh City||39,291||3|
|#7||🇯🇵||Hokkaido ↔️ Tokyo||39,271||4|
|#8||🇮🇩||Jakarta ↔️ Surabaya City||37,762||6|
|#9||🇺🇸||Los Angeles ↔️ San Francisco||35,365||5|
|#10||🇸🇦||Jeddah ↔️ Riyadh||35,149||5|
The busiest domestic route might be a surprise, unless you are familiar with Asian geography.
With almost 80,000 annual flights, the 300-mile hop between Seoul and Jeju Island in South Korea is the busiest air route in the world by a large margin. Overall, there are seven carriers competing on it each day, with over 200 daily flights available between them.
What makes Jeju so popular?
Known as the “Hawaii of South Korea”, this volcanic island is an extremely popular vacation destination within the country, and it hosts roughly 15 million guests per year.
On an international basis, the busiest route has almost 50,000 fewer flights per year than the Jeju-Seoul city pair listed above. Not surprisingly, this route – and many other top international routes – are also located in the Asia Pacific region.
|Rank||Countries||City Pair||Flights (Annually)||Carriers|
|#1||🇲🇾🇸🇬||Kuala Lumpur ↔️ Singapore||30,187||8|
|#2||🇭🇰🇹🇼||Hong Kong ↔️ Taipei||28,447||5|
|#3||🇮🇩🇸🇬||Jakarta ↔️ Singapore||27,046||7|
|#4||🇭🇰🇨🇳||Hong Kong ↔️ Shanghai||20,678||5|
|#5||🇮🇩🇲🇾||Jakarta ↔️ Kuala Lumpur||19,741||8|
|#6||🇰🇷🇯🇵||Seoul ↔️ Osaka||19,711||8|
|#7||🇺🇸🇨🇦||New York (LGA) ↔️ Toronto||17,038||3|
|#8||🇭🇰🇰🇷||Hong Kong ↔️ Seoul||15,770||9|
|#9||🇹🇭🇸🇬||Bangkok ↔️ Singapore||14,698||5|
|#10||🇦🇪🇰🇼||Dubai ↔️ Kuwait||14,581||4|
The short hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur takes only one hour, and it connects two major Southeast Asian commercial hubs. The route has 41 flights per day between eight airlines, making it one of the most competitive routes globally.
The busiest international route outside of the Asia Pacific is between Toronto and New York (LaGuardia) with 17,038 annual flights. Interestingly, it only has three competing carriers – the lowest of any of the top 10 routes.
Markets3 months ago
The Jeff Bezos Empire in One Giant Chart
Maps6 months ago
Mercator Misconceptions: Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries
Advertising2 months ago
Meet Generation Z: The Newest Member to the Workforce
Misc5 months ago
24 Cognitive Biases That Are Warping Your Perception of Reality
Technology4 months ago
The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web
Environment2 months ago
The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side
Advertising4 weeks ago
How the Tech Giants Make Their Billions
Chart of the Week3 months ago
Chart: The World’s Largest 10 Economies in 2030