Countries by GDP and Economic Components (1970-2017)
While looking at the top countries by GDP is a useful big picture measure, it can also be informative to look at the components that make up an economy as well.
Examining a country’s economic building blocks can tell us a lot about what stage of development the country is in, and where competitive advantages may exist.
Analyzing GDP by Sector
Today’s “horse race” bar chart, by Number Story, is an entertaining historical look at the ranking of top countries by GDP, including the parts that make up the whole.
Here is the latest data as of 2018, as well as the largest sector according to data from the United Nations’ industry classification database:
|Rank||Country||GDP (2018)||Top Sector (% of total)||2nd Largest Sector (% of total)|
|1||🇺🇸 United States||$20.6T||Other (55%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (15%)|
|2||🇨🇳 China||$13.6T||Other (36%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (33%)|
|3||🇯🇵 Japan||$4.9T||Other (43%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (23%)|
|4||🇩🇪 Germany||$3.6T||Other (48%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (25%)|
|5||🇬🇧 UK||$2.5T||Other (55%)||Retail/Restaurant/Hotels (14%)|
|6||🇮🇳 India||$2.5T||Other (36%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (22%)|
|7||🇫🇷 France||$2.5T||Other (56%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (13%)|
|8||🇮🇹 Italy||$1.9T||Other (49%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (20%)|
|9||🇧🇷 Brazil||$1.6T||Other (50%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (16%)|
|10||🇨🇦 Canada||$1.6T||Other (52%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (18%)|
|11||🇰🇷 South Korea||$1.6T||Other (42%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (31%)|
|12||🇷🇺 Russia||$1.5T||Other (36%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (28%)|
|13||🇦🇺 Australia||$1.4T||Other (53%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (17%)|
|14||🇪🇸 Spain||$1.3T||Other (47%)||Retail/Restaurant/Hotels (19%)|
|15||🇲🇽 Mexico||$1.2T||Other (34%)||Mining/Manufacturing/Utilities (24%)|
Why are “Other Activities” so dominant in this breakdown?
It’s because of the way GDP that components are classified as data in the UN industry classification system, which is laid out below:
- Agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing (ISIC A-B)
- Mining, manufacturing, utilities (ISIC C-E)
- Construction (ISIC F)
- Wholesale, retail trade, restaurants and hotels (ISIC G-H)
- Transport, storage and communication (ISIC I)
- Other activities, such as finance, healthcare, real estate, and tech (ISIC J-P)
Although agriculture, construction, or manufacturing have been a bedrock for economies in the past, developed countries skew towards adding economic value in different ways today.
Given that finance, government spending (healthcare, education, defense, etc.) and technology — all important modern industries — are included in “Other”, this makes the possibly outdated classification the biggest (and least useful) category to examine here.
Nevertheless, there is still information we can glean from this animated breakdown of GDP, spanning a period of almost 50 years.
A More Granular Look at GDP
However, the animated bar chart shows something more granular that is compelling in its own right. By observing the evolution of countries’ economic components over time, some interesting observations emerge that would normally be lost in the big picture.
Japan’s Manufacturing Boom
At points during Japan’s heyday of growth during the 1980’s, manufacturing comprised nearly 30% of economic activity. By the mid-90s, this single segment of Japan’s economy was so valuable that, on its own, it would’ve placed fifth in the global ranking.
America Leading the Pack
While other countries switch positions, reordering as economies boom and bust, the U.S. has handily remained in top position.
Japan was the country that narrowed the gap between the first and second spot the most, though the country’s Lost Decade in the 1990s cut that ascension short.
During the years between 1970 and 2017, the United States was at its most dominant in 2006 when its GDP was triple the size of Japan’s. Of course, in recent years China has narrowed the gap considerably.
A Star Rising in the East
As one would expect, the building blocks of China’s economy looked very different in the 1970s than today.
The communist systems of the USSR and China are both easy to spot in the visualization. Agriculture played an outsized role, and industries like finance, real estate, and retail were understated compared to the profiles of countries that operated under a capitalist system.
In 1980, as the first Special Economic Zones were being created, three-quarters of China’s economy was based on agriculture, resource extraction, and manufacturing. Even as recently as the early ’90s, China wasn’t in the top 10 despite being the world’s most populous country.
Of course, that situation changed drastically over the next two decades. By the dawn of the 21st century, China ranked fifth in the world, and a decade later, China surpassed Japan to become the second largest economy globally.
Visualizing the Footprint of Highways in American Cities
Highways improved mobility for the average American, ingraining the automobile into the urban fabric of American cities, for better and worse.
Visualizing the Footprint of Highways in American Cities
Driving on the open road is a defining feature of the American experience, made possible by coast-to-coast highways. It defined a generation of life and ingrained the automobile into the urban fabric of American cities, for better and worse.
Today’s animations show how highways reshaped the downtown cores of six American cities and created new patterns of urban life. But first, some background information on the creation of the interstate system.
The Interstate Highway System
The U.S. Interstate System was created on June 29, 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. It would eventually run 46,876 miles, cost $521 billion and take 36 years to complete.
From San Diego to Bangor, the interstate highway system connected Americans and opened up the country to commerce and geographic mobility like never before, but for all its benefits, this new transportation network ripped through established patterns of urban and town life, creating a new era of urban development.
The Legacy of Highways: The Suburbs and Inner Cities
The vast geography of continental America helped to entrench personal mobility and freedom into American society. Highways and automobiles accelerated this lifestyle and even changed the shape of entire cities.
According to Prof. Nathaniel Baum-Snow of the University of Toronto, between 1950 and 1990, the population of central cities in the U.S. declined by 17% despite a population growth of 72% in larger metropolitan areas during the same period. Baum-Snow posits that, had the interstate highway system not been built, central cities’ populations would have increased 8%.
Firms followed the workers to the suburbs, but the highways system also created additional benefits for these firms. Cross-country road access freed manufacturing from ports and downtown rail hubs, while allowing economies to operate across larger distances, altering the dynamics of typical urban economies.
Faced with this new reality, inner cities struggled in years to come.
The introduction of highways created an increase in the supply of land for development through faster commutes to outlying areas. In 1950, half of all jobs were located in central cities. By 1990, less than one-third of urban jobs were located in the core of American cities.
“Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities.” Jane Jacobs, Author The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Benefits of new development accrued to the outer areas while the construction of the highways in inner cities displaced largely low-income communities, segregated neighborhoods, increased the amount of air and noise pollution, devalued surrounding properties, and removed access to jobs for those without a car, further concentrating poverty.
Before and After: Six American Cities
A bird’s eye view of six American cities reveals what was and what is now. By overlaying existing highways over the neighborhoods they replaced, it becomes clear how much interstate construction drastically altered America’s urban landscape.
Public opposition to the construction of I-980 was so strong that developers abandoned the project in 1971, only to complete it over a decade later.
The I-95 carved through Miami’s largely black Overtown neighborhood. The construction of a single highway cloverleaf resulted in 20 square blocks being demolished, displacing over 10,000 people in that community.
The I-95 comprised unconnected segments between 1957 and 1965 through the densest urban areas in a deliberate effort to prevent premature suburbanization and to revitalize the downtown core.
The I-71 cuts downtown Cincinnati off from its waterfront and a massive freeway interchange forced the destruction of dozens of blocks west of downtown.
Freeway construction transformed Detroit between 1951 and 2010. Previously, its downtown had been surrounded by a high-density street grid. Today, it’s totally encircled by freeways.
Rochester is one of many cities opting to undertake freeway removal projects.
As the dotted line above shows, the “moat” surrounding downtown is slowly being removed. The city used reclaimed land from the Inner Loop freeway to construct three mixed-use developments that include below-market-rate units.
The Future of Urban Living: Do Highways Matter?
A new era of living is reconsidering the impacts of these highways on urban centers. As property values rise and existing housing stock is pressured, there are growing concerns over the environmental impacts of suburban life. As a result, urban planners and residents are looking to revitalize city cores and re-purpose land occupied by burdensome slabs of highway concrete.
Since 1987, there have been more than 20 urban highway segments removed from downtown cores, neighborhoods and waterfronts, mostly in North America. The pace of removals has picked up significantly and an additional 10 highways are now planned for removal in the United States.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, American cities have seen their traffic plummet. Rush-hour trips into cities are taking nearly half the time while some are not even commuting at all.
While this situation is likely temporary, it is offering a moment for reflection of how cities operate and whether the car should be at the center of urban planning.
*Hat tip to Shane Hampton, whose 60 Years of Urban Change compilation served as inspiration for this article. Visit that page for many more examples of highway impact on cities.
The Anatomy of the $2 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill
A visual breakdown of the CARES Act, the $2 trillion package to provide COVID-19 economic relief. It’s the largest stimulus bill in modern history.
The Anatomy of the $2 Trillion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill
The unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic has prioritized keeping people apart to slow the spread of the virus. While measures such as business closures and travel restrictions are effective at fighting a pandemic, they also have a dramatic impact on the economy.
To help right the ship, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — also known as the CARES Act — was passed by U.S. lawmakers last week with little fanfare. The act became the largest economic stimulus bill in modern history, more than doubling the stimulus act passed in 2009 during the Financial Crisis.
Today’s Sankey diagram is a visual representation of where the $2 trillion will be spent. Broadly speaking, there are five components to the COVID-19 stimulus bill:
|Category||Total Amount||Share of the Package|
|Individuals / Families||$603.7 billion||30%|
|Big Business||$500.0 billion||25%|
|Small Business||$377.0 billion||19%|
|State and Local Government||$340.0 billion||17%|
|Public Services||$179.5 billion||9%|
Although the COVID-19 stimulus bill is incredibly complex, here are some of the most important parts to be aware of.
Funds for Individuals
Amount: $603.7 billion – 30% of total CARES Act
In order to stimulate the sputtering economy quickly, the U.S. government will deploy “helicopter money” — direct cash payments to individuals and families.
The centerpiece of this plan is a $1,200 direct payment for those earning up to $75,000 per year. For higher earners, payment amounts will phase out, ending altogether at the $99,000 income level. Families will also receive $500 per child.
There are three other key things to know about this portion of the stimulus funds:
- There will be a temporary suspension for any student loan held by the federal government. This means no payments required and no interest accrued until the end of September, 2020.
- Borrowers with federally backed loans can request forbearance on mortgage payments for up to six months.
- There will be an expansion of unemployment benefits, including a four-month enhancement of benefits. This plan includes freelancers, workers in the gig economy, and furloughed employees.
Amount: $500.0 billion – 25% of total CARES Act
This component of the package is aimed at stabilizing big businesses in hard-hit sectors.
The most obvious industry to receive support will be the airlines. About $58 billion has been earmarked for commercial and cargo airlines, as well as airline contractors. Perhaps in response to recent criticism of the industry, companies receiving stimulus money will be barred from engaging in stock buybacks for the term of the loan plus one year.
One interesting pathway highlighted by today’s Sankey diagram is the $17 billion allocated to “maintaining national security”. While this provision doesn’t mention any specific company by name, the primary recipient is believed to be Boeing.
The bill also indicates that an inspector general will oversee the recovery process, along with a special committee.
Amount: $377.0 billion – 19% of total CARES Act
To ease the strain on businesses around the country, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will be given $350 billion to provide loans of up to $10 million to qualifying organizations. These funds can be used for mission critical activities, such as paying rent or keeping employees on the payroll during COVID-19 closures.
As well, the bill sets aside $10 billion in grants for small businesses that need help covering short-term operating costs.
State and Local Governments
Amount: $340.0 billion – 17% of total CARES Act
The biggest portion of funds going to local and state governments is the $274 billion allocated towards direct COVID-19 response. The rest of the funds in this component will go to schools and child care services.
Public and Health Services
Amount: $179.5 billion – 9% of total CARES Act
The biggest slice of this pie goes to healthcare providers, who will receive $100 billion in grants to help fight COVID-19. This was a major ask from groups representing the healthcare industry, as they look to make up the lost revenue caused by focusing on the outbreak — as opposed to performing elective surgeries and other procedures. There will also be a 20% increase in Medicare payments for treating patients with the virus.
Money is also set aside for initiatives such as increasing the availability of ventilators and masks for the Strategic National Stockpile, as well as providing additional funding for the Center for Disease Control and expanding the reach of virtual doctors.
Finally, beyond the healthcare-related funding, the CARES Act also addresses food security programs and a long list of educational and arts initiatives.
Hat tip to Reddit user SevenandForty for inspiring this graphic.
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