The term "First World" was first used during the Cold War. This term was originally used to describe countries aligned with NATO and were opponents of the Soviet Union. "Second World Countries referred to nations under Soviet influence or control and "third world countries" referred to nations that did not fall under either category. However, upon the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 1990s, the term has changed slightly. The definition of "First World countries" today is used to describe a set of countries around the world with several similar and distinctive characteristics.
First World countries have laws in place and have a high-functioning democracy. There is little political risk within these countries. The economy of a First World country is stable, and there is a high standard of living. These countries have capitalist economies. To be classified as a First World country, several factors are considered. The gross domestic product and the gross national product of the economy are evaluated. Life expectant, literacy rates, and data from the Human Development Index are also considered.
Going back to the early history of the term, countries that were aligned with the U.S. were member states of NATO, former British Colonies that were developed, and neutral countries that were industrialized and developed were considered to be First World countries. NATO-aligned countries immediately following the Cold War were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, West Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Neutral countries that were developed included Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland. Countries aligned with the United States included Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
Today, CIA The World Factbook has a list of developed countries that are considered to be known as First World, high-income countries. The countries on the list generally have a per capita GDP exceeding $15,000. There are a total of 31 countries on this list as of July 2018.