What is a second world country? The term “Second World country” is a term used during the Cold War to refer to the industrial socialist states that were under the influence of the Soviet Union.
Following World War II, countries were categorized as First World, Second World, or Third World countries. First World countries were the democratic-industrial countries within the American influence sphere. Second World countries were the Eastern bloc of communist-socialist states. Third World countries were any other country not aligned with either power.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the terminology of the “three worlds” has changed somewhat. Today, “First World” countries are considered to be developed countries. “Second World” countries are the term are used to describe former communist countries that aren’t quite in poverty but aren’t prosperous either. “Third World” countries are considered to be the developing and least developed countries of the world. A term that was originally used to describe political ideologies is now used to define economic states.
Today, a more accurate measure of economic development in countries is the Human Development Index (HDI). The Human Development Index is an index used to rank countries and is quantified by looking at a country’s human development such as life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators. HDI places countries on a scale of 0-1 and categorizes them into one of four levels of human development: low human developed (0-.55), medium human development (.55-.70), high human development (.70-80), and very high human development (.80-1.0).
The Second World countries from the Cold War era currently range from medium human development to very high human development in terms of HDI. For example, Slovenia has an HDI of .896, categorizing it as very high human development. In historical terms, Slovenia is a Second World country; however, it is considered a “First World country” under the modern definition. Kyrgyzstan has an HDI of .672, putting the country in the medium human development tier. This makes Kyrgyzstan a “Second World country” by historical definition and by modern definition.
When categorizing countries as First World, Second World, or Third World, it is important to distinguish if the country is being categorized by a historical definition or modern definition. Human Development Index is a more accurate means of categorizing nations based on their economic and human development.