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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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Charted: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins

This infographic compares Tesla’s impressive profit margins to various Western and Chinese competitors.



Chart: Tesla’s Unrivaled Profit Margins

In January this year, Tesla made the surprising announcement that it would be cutting prices on its vehicles by as much as 20%.

While price cuts are not new in the automotive world, they are for Tesla. The company, which historically has been unable to keep up with demand, has seen its order backlog shrink from 476,000 units in July 2022, to 74,000 in December 2022.

This has been attributed to Tesla’s robust production growth, which saw 2022 production increase 41% over 2021 (from 930,422 to 1,313,851 units).

With the days of “endless” demand seemingly over, Tesla is going on the offensive by reducing its prices—a move that puts pressure on competitors, but has also angered existing owners.

Cranking up the Heat

Tesla’s price cuts are an attempt to protect its market share, but they’re not exactly the desperation move some media outlets have claimed them to be.

Recent data compiled by Reuters shows that Tesla’s margins are significantly higher than those of its rivals, both in terms of gross and net profit. Our graphic only illustrates the net figures, but gross profits are also included in the table below.

CompanyGross profit per carNet profit per car
🇺🇸 Tesla$15,653$9,574
🇺🇸 GM$3,818$2,150
🇨🇳 BYD$5,456$1,550
🇯🇵 Toyota$3,925$1,197
🇩🇪 VW$6,034$973
🇰🇷 Hyundai$5,362$927
🇺🇸 Ford$3,115-$762
🇨🇳 Xpeng$4,565-$11,735
🇨🇳 Nio$8,036-$19,141

Data from Q3 2022

Price cutting has its drawbacks, but one could argue that the benefits for Tesla are worth it based on this data—especially in a critical market like China.

Tesla has taken the nuclear option to bully the weaker, thin margin players off the table.
– Bill Russo, Automobility

In the case of Chinese EV startups Xpeng and Nio, net profits are non-existent, meaning it’s unlikely they’ll be able to match Tesla’s reductions in price. Both firms have reported year-on-year sales declines in January.

As for Tesla, Chinese media outlets have claimed that the firm received 30,000 orders within three days of its price cut announcement. Note that this hasn’t been officially confirmed by anyone within the company.

Tit for Tat

Ford made headlines recently for announcing its own price cuts on the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. The model is a direct competitor to Tesla’s best-selling Model Y.

Chevrolet and Hyundai have also adjusted some of their EV prices in recent months, as listed in the following table.

ModelOld PriceNew PriceDiscount
Tesla Model Y Long Range$65,990$53,49018.9%
Chevrolet Bolt EUV 2023$33,500$27,20018.8%
Tesla Model Y Performance$69,990$56,99018.6%
Chevrolet Bolt 2023$31,600$26,50016.1%
Tesla Model 3 Performance$62,990$53,99014.3%
Hyundai Kona Electric 2022$37,390$34,0009.1%
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Extended Range$69,900$64,0008.4%
Tesla Model 3 Long Range$46,990$43,9906.4%
Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD$57,675$53,9956.4%
Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD Standard Range$46,900$46,0001.9%

Source: Observer (Feb 2023)

Volkswagen is a noteworthy player missing from this table. The company has been gaining ground on Tesla, especially in the European market.

We have a clear pricing strategy and are focusing on reliability. We trust in the strength of our products and brands.
– Oliver Blume, CEO, VW Group

This decision could hamper Volkswagen’s goal of becoming a dominant player in EVs, especially if more automakers join Tesla in cutting prices. For now, Tesla still holds a strong grip on the US market.

tesla US market share

Thanks, Elon

Recent Tesla buyers became outraged when the company announced it would be slashing prices on its cars. In China, buyers even staged protests at Tesla stores and delivery centers.

Recent buyers not only missed out on a better price, but their cars have effectively depreciated by the amount of the cut. This is a bitter turn of events, given Musk’s 2019 claims that a Tesla would be an appreciating asset.

I think the most profound thing is that if you buy a Tesla today, I believe you are buying an appreciating asset – not a depreciating asset.
– Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

These comments were made in reference to Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) capabilities, which Elon claimed would enable owners to turn their cars into robotaxis.

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