Arguably the single most influential factor in determining the quality of life in a given country is its economic health. The World Bank, a global organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty all over the world, divides countries into four categories, known as World Bank Country and Lending Groups, based upon their Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. For the 2023 financial year, the WBC Lending Group boundaries are as follows:
- Low-income economies — GNI per capita of up to $1,085 in 2021 (in USD)
- Lower-middle-income economies — GNI per capita of $1,086 to $4,255
- Upper-middle-income economies — GNI per capita of $4,256 to $13,205
- High-income economies — GNI per capita of $13,206 or more
For the 2023 financial year, the World Bank placed 81 countries in the high-income category. Many countries, such as the United States, have consistently ranked as high income since the 1980s, but others have moved in or out. For instance, the 2023 group sees the addition of Panama and Romania, but the loss of Palau, which was reclassified as an upper-middle-income country. Some former high-income countries, such as Russia and Venezuela, slipped to a lower bracket in past years and have yet to regain the high-income classification.
Every High-Income Country and Territory in the World (World Bank 2023):
|Antigua and Barbuda||Greece||Poland|
|Bahrain||Iceland||Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|Belgium||Isle of Man||San Marino|
|British Virgin Islands||Italy||Seychelles|
|Denmark||Nauru||Trinidad and Tobago|
|Estonia||Netherlands||Turks and Caicos Islands|
|Faroe Islands||New Caledonia||United Arab Emirates|
|Finland||New Zealand||United Kingdom|
|France||Northern Mariana Islands||United States|
|French Polynesia||Norway||United States Virgin Islands|
GNI per capita explained
GNI per capita is essentially a measure of a nation's total income divided by the number of people in that country. A country's overall gross national income (GNI) is very similar to gross national product (GNP), an older metric GNI has largely replaced. GNI is calculated by starting with a country's gross domestic product (GDP), then adding money its citizens and businesses have brought in from other countries and subtracting money taken out of the economy by businesses and investors based in other countries. Once a country's GNI has been calculated, it is divided by that country's population to determine its GNI per capita. GNI offers little insight into a country's income inequality but is nonetheless considered one of the most important at-a-glance assessments of a country's economic health.
The relationship between income and development
While World Bank classifies countries by income, the United Nations groups countries by their level of overall development. There is, however, a high degree of correlation between the two systems, as development often runs parallel to income. As a rule, countries classified as high income by World Bank correspond to those deemed developed countries by the United Nations. Upper-middle- and lower-middle-income countries roughly correspond to the United Nations' developing countries, and World Bank's low-income countries list includes many of what the United Nations would consider the least-developed or (less commonly) underdeveloped countries.