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Mapped: The World’s Largest Economies, Sized by GDP (1970-2020)

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Visualizing The World’s Largest Economies (1970-2020)

Global GDP has grown massively over the last 50 years, but not all countries experienced this economic growth equally.

In 1970, the world’s nominal GDP was just $3.4 trillion. Fast forward a few decades and it had reached $85.3 trillion by 2020. And thanks to shifting dynamics, such as industrialization and the rise and fall of political regimes, the world’s largest economies driving this global growth have changed over time.

This slideshow using graphics from Ruben Berge Mathisen show the distribution of global GDP among countries in 1970, 1995, and 2020.

Methodology

Using data from the United Nations, Mathisen collected nominal GDP in U.S. dollars for each country. He then determined each country’s GDP as a share of global GDP and sized each graphic’s bubbles accordingly.

The bubbles were placed according to country latitude and longitude coordinates, but Mathisen programmed the bubbles so that they wouldn’t overlap with each other. For this reason, some countries are slightly displaced from their exact locations on a map.

1970: USSR as a Major Player

In 1970, the U.S. accounted for the largest share of global GDP, making up nearly one-third of the world economy. The table below shows the top 10 economies in 1970.

RankCountryGDP (1970)Share of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 United States$1.1T31.4 %
#2☭ USSR$433B12.7 %
#3🇩🇪 Germany$216B6.3 %
#4🇯🇵 Japan$213B6.2 %
#5🇫🇷 France$148B4.3 %
#6🇬🇧 UK$131B3.8 %
#7🇮🇹 Italy$113B3.3 %
#8🇨🇳 China$93B2.7 %
#9🇨🇦 Canada$89B2.6 %
#10🇮🇳 India$62B1.8 %

Then a global superpower, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) came in second place on the list of the world’s largest economies.

In the years leading up to 1970, the USSR had seen impressive GDP growth largely due to adopting Western technologies that increased productivity. However, the USSR’s economy began to stagnate in the ‘70s, and eventually collapsed in 1991.

On the other side, Germany (including both West and East Germany) was the third-largest economy in 1970 after rising from economic ruin following World War II. West Germany’s “Economic Miracle” is largely credited to the introduction of a new currency to replace the Riechsmark, large tax cuts brought in to spur investment, and the removal of price controls.

1995: Japan Begins to Slow Down

By 1995, the U.S. still held the top spot on the world’s largest economies list, but the country’s share of global GDP had shrunk.

RankCountry/AreaGDP (1995)Share of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 United States$7.6T24.4 %
#2🇯🇵 Japan$5.5T17.7 %
#3🇩🇪 Germany$2.6T8.3 %
#4🇫🇷 France$1.6T5.1 %
#5🇬🇧 UK$1.3T4.3 %
#6🇮🇹 Italy$1.2T3.8 %
#7🇧🇷 Brazil$778B2.5 %
#8🇨🇳 China$734B2.4 %
#9🇪🇸 Spain$615B2.0 %
#10🇨🇦 Canada$606B1.9 %

Meanwhile, Japan had leapfrogged into second place and nearly tripled its share of the global economy compared to 1970. A number of factors played into Japan’s economic success:

  • Large business groups known as keiretsu used their connections to undercut rivals
  • Fierce competition between companies encouraged innovation
  • Tax breaks and cheap credit stimulated investment
  • The well-educated workforce was willing to work extremely long hours

But around 1990, the country’s economy had actually begun to slow down. Japan’s decreasing labor force participation rate and diminishing returns from higher education both could have played a role.

2020: The World’s Largest Economies Shift Again

In 2020, the United States continued to hold onto the number one spot among the world’s largest economies. However, Japan’s slowdown created a rare opportunity for a new powerhouse to emerge: China.

RankCountry/AreaGDP (2020)Share of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 United States$20.9T24.5 %
#2🇨🇳 China$14.7T17.3 %
#3🇯🇵 Japan$5.1T5.9 %
#4🇩🇪 Germany$3.8T4.5 %
#5🇬🇧 UK$2.8T3.2 %
#6🇮🇳 India$2.7T3.1 %
#7🇫🇷 France$2.6T3.1 %
#8🇮🇹 Italy$1.9T2.2 %
#9🇨🇦 Canada$1.6T1.9 %
#10🇰🇷 South Korea$1.6T1.9 %

China’s economy saw incredible growth following economic reforms in 1978. The reforms encouraged the formation of private businesses, liberalized foreign trade and investment, relaxed state control over some prices, and invested in industrial production and the education of its workforce. With profit incentives introduced to private businesses, productivity increased.

China was also positioned as a cheap manufacturing hub for multinational corporations. Since rising into contention, the country has become the world’s largest exporter.

India held the title of the sixth largest economy in 2020. Similar to China, the country’s growth came from relaxed economic restrictions, and it has seen particularly strong growth within the service sector, including telecommunications, IT, and software.

With dynamics shifting, which countries will be on the leaderboard in another 25 years?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Retail

The World’s Top Retail Companies, by Domestic Revenue

As price pressures and e-commerce reshape shopping behaviors, we show the top retail companies by domestic revenue around the world.

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This circle graphic shows the world's top retail companies by domestic revenue.

The World’s Top Retail Companies, by Domestic Revenue

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The retail sector plays a vital role in powering economies, contributing $5.3 trillion annually to America’s GDP alone.

Moreover, the industry is America’s biggest private-sector employer, responsible for one of every four jobs, or 55 million employees. Yet in today’s challenging consumer environment, retailers are facing higher e-commerce penetration and inflationary pressures—across an industry notoriously known for razor-thin margins.

This graphic shows the world’s top retail companies by domestic revenue, based on data from the National Retail Federation.

Methodology

To be included in the rankings, companies must engage in a goods-for-consumer resale business accessible to the public and have direct selling operations in a minimum of three countries.

The rankings include both publicly and private companies, and are based on the most recent 52-week period analyzed by the National Retail Federation between January and March 2024. All revenue figures were converted to U.S. dollars.

Ranked: The Top 10 Global Retailers by Domestic Sales

Here are the leading retailers worldwide based on domestic sales as of 2023:

RankingRetailerDomestic Retail Revenue
(USD)
Share of Total Retail RevenueHeadquarters
1Walmart$532.3B85%🇺🇸 U.S.
2Amazon.com$250.0B70%🇺🇸 U.S.
3Costco$175.4B75%🇺🇸 U.S.
4The Home Depot$142.0B94%🇺🇸 U.S.
5Walgreens Boots Alliance$105.1B89%🇺🇸 U.S.
6Alibaba$91.5B97%🇨🇳 China
7Apple$70.9B87%🇺🇸 U.S.
8Aeon$64.3B93%🇯🇵 Japan
9Schwarz Group$56.5B32%🇩🇪 Germany
10Rewe$55.5B75%🇩🇪 Germany

Walmart towers ahead as the world’s largest retailer with $532 billion in domestic revenue—more than Amazon.com and Costco combined.

Known for its everyday low prices, Walmart achieves a competitive advantage through pricing goods approximately 25% cheaper than traditional retail competitors. Overall, groceries make up more than half of total sales. While its main customer base is often low and middle-income shoppers, the retail giant is seeing a surge in sales from higher-income customers as shoppers seek out lower grocery prices.

E-commerce giant, Amazon, is the second-biggest retailer globally, commanding nearly 40% of online retail sales in America. Since 2019, the number of Amazon employees has grown from 800,000 to over 1.5 million in 2023.

While the company has tried to introduce online grocery platforms to the market, it has largely fallen flat given its clunky system in a highly competitive market.

Like Amazon, China’s e-commerce juggernaut, Alibaba, stands as a leading global retailer. Overall, 97% of revenues were generated domestically through online marketplaces Taobao and Tmall. In recent years, the company has focused on international expansion, delivering products to 11 markets including America, in just five days.

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