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Visualizing Global Income Distribution Over 200 Years



Global Income Distribution infographic

Visualizing Global Income Distribution Over 200 Years

Has the world become more unequal?

With COVID-19 disrupting societies and lower-income countries in particular, social and economic progress made over the last decade is in danger of being reversed. And with rising living costs and inflation across much of the world, experts warn that global income inequality has been exacerbated.

But the good news is that absolute incomes across many poorer countries have significantly risen over the last century of time. And though work remains, poverty levels have fallen dramatically in spite of stark inequality.

To analyze historical trends in global income distribution, this infographic from Our World in Data looks at three periods over the last two centuries. It uses economic data from 1800, 1975, and 2015 compiled by Hans and Ola Rosling.


For global income estimates, data was gathered by country across three key variables:

  • Population
  • GDP per capita
  • Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality by statistical distribution

Daily incomes were measured in a hypothetical “international-$” currency, equal to what a U.S. dollar would buy in America in 2011, to allow for comparable incomes across time periods and countries.

Historical Patterns in Global Income Distribution

In 1800, over 80% of the world lived in what we consider extreme poverty today.

At the time, only a small number of countries—predominantly Western European countries, Australia, Canada and the U.S.—saw meaningful economic growth. In fact, research suggests that between 1 CE and 1800 CE the majority of places around the world saw miniscule economic growth (only 0.04% annually).

By 1975, global income distribution became bimodal. Most citizens in developing countries lived below the poverty line, while most in developed countries lived above it, with incomes nearly 10 times higher on average. Post-WWII growth was unusually rapid across developed countries.

Fast forward just 40 years to 2015 and world income distribution changed again. As incomes rose faster in poorer countries than developed ones, many people were lifted out of poverty. Between 1975 and 2015, poverty declined faster than at any other time. Still, steep inequality persisted.

A Tale of Different Economic Outputs

Even as global income distribution has started to even out, economic output has trended in the opposite direction.

As the above interactive chart shows, GDP per capita was much more equal across regions in the 19th century, when it sat around $1,100 per capita on a global basis. Despite many people living below the poverty line during these times, the world also had less wealth to go around.

Today, the global average GDP per capita sits at close to $15,212 or about 14 times higher, but it is not as equally distributed.

At the highest end of the spectrum are Western and European countries. Strong economic growth, greater industrial output, and sufficient legal institutions have helped underpin higher GDP per capita numbers. Meanwhile, countries with the lowest average incomes have not seen the same levels of growth.

This highlights that poverty, and economic prosperity, is heavily influenced by where one lives.

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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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Visualized: How U.S. Sports Leagues Make Money

We break down the five major U.S. sports leagues by revenue as billions are generated from ticket sales, sponsorships, and media deals.



This pie chart graphic shows U.S. sports leagues by revenue over the 2022-2023 seasons.

Comparing How U.S. Sports Leagues Make Money

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.

Between 2022 and 2023, the five major U.S. sports leagues collectively earned $49.3 billion.

The NFL generated the highest revenue, at $18.7 billion, significantly outpacing both the NBA and MLB, which each brought in $10.9 billion. Although the main sources of league revenues have largely remained unchanged over the last four decades, there are distinct variations in the revenue breakdown of each sport.

This graphic breaks down U.S. sports leagues by revenue stream, based on data from Sportico.

Breaking Down U.S. Sports League Revenues

Below, we show how each major league generates revenue based on their primary sources of revenue. Revenue for the NFL and MLB is as of 2022, revenue for the NBA and NHL is for the 2022-2023 season, and revenue for the MLS is as of 2023.

LeagueCentral Revenue Seating/SuitesTeam
Local MediaConcession/
Total Revenue

Central revenue includes league media, merchandise, other sponsorships, and shared ticket revenue.

As we can see, central revenue, which largely consists of media and broadcast deals, is the most important revenue source for the NFL and NBA.

Since 2018, the NFL has grown from 61 of the top 100 most watched TV broadcasts to 93 in 2023. Adding to this, streaming platforms are increasingly signing contracts with the NFL, including Netflix paying $150 million to stream two 2024 Christmas games and Amazon paying $1 billion to stream Thursday night games exclusively on digital.

Additionally, the NBA recently signed an 11-year $76 billion deal with ESPN, Amazon, and NBC that is worth more than double its previous contract. Moreover, this trend of significantly increasing media deal values is seen across every major league amid high consumer demand for professional sports.

For the MLB, local media is a vital source of revenue, with nearly a quarter of revenues coming from this source—more than any other sport by far. In fact, each day an average 2.3 million viewers watch MLB games on regional sports networks.

Meanwhile, the NHL makes the highest share of revenue from seating and suite sales compared to major sports leagues, at 44%, due to it attracting less lucrative TV contracts.

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