North America is a continent located within the Northern Hemisphere and almost entirely in the Western Hemisphere. As the third-largest continent on Earth, North America spans over 9.54 million square miles (24.71 million square kilometers) and is home to about 580 million people in 23 independent states. North America comprises about 16.5% of Earth’s total land area and about 4.8% of its total surface.
North America is home to the United States, the largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP of $21.44 trillion. The U.S. is regarded as an economic superpower as its GDP constitutes almost one-fourth of the global economy.
Other countries in North America, however, are not as wealthy as the United States. Below are the poorest countries in Asia based on GDP per capita. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of the standard of living in a given country since it reflects the average wealth of each resident.
Haiti is the poorest country in North America with a per capita GDP of $671. Haiti is experiencing rapid population growth, which is happening faster than the country can keep up to provide for its current population as is. In January of 2010, Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake, the biggest natural disaster in the country’s history. Haiti has had a long history of slavery, revolution, deforestation, corruption, debt, and violence – all factors that have led to its lack of infrastructure, political instability, and poverty.
With a GDP almost three times than that of Haiti of $1,997, Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in North America. Rural poverty is a large portion of all poverty in Nicaragua. Factors contributing to the country’s high rate of poverty include natural disasters, political instability, and the lack of education. Constant earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes have destroyed livestock, crops, schools, and homes, leaving many families with nothing. Communities are starting to prioritize natural disaster preparation to prevent natural disasters wiping out peoples’ entire lives.
Honduras has a per capita GDP of $2,172, making Honduras the third-poorest country in North America. More than half of Honduras’s population of 9 million lives in poverty. Many people are also underemployed due to an economy that is not growing quickly enough with the growing population. While the Honduras economy is starting to make some progress, violence has bred instability in the country and perpetuated poverty.
Guatemala has the largest economy in Central America, but more than half of its citizens live below the poverty line. Guatemala’s per capita GDP is $3,838 making it the fourth-poorest country in North America. One possible reason that Guatemala’s people are so poor is that the government is not collecting enough taxes. Not having enough revenue means that the government cannot spend enough to improve infrastructure, leading to slow growth.
5. El Salvador
El Salvador is the fifth-poorest country in North America with a per capita GDP of $4,131. El Salvador has a small elite population that became wealthy through the country’s coffee and sugar production. On the other hand, about 40% of the population falls below the poverty line. More than half of El Salvadorans are living on less than $2 per day. Factors contributing to the country’s poverty include gangs and violence and a weak education system.
Jamaica’s per capita GDP is $4,747. Jamaica is one of the poorest countries in North America despite being considered an upper-middle-income country by the World Bank. Jamaica’s economy is unstable, slow, and weakened by high debt rates. Jamaica has been plagued with gang violence, high inflation rates, and high unemployment rates. Additionally, Jamaica spends about half of its income on imported goods for basic necessities such as gasoline and food, increasing its deficit.
7. Dominican Republic
Despite sharing an island with Haiti, the Dominican Republic is in a much better financial state than its neighbor; however, the Dominican Republic is the seventh-poorest country in North America. The Dominican Republic’s per capita GDP is $6,599. Between 2014 and 2016, poverty rates dropped in the DR by 6%, but the country still has very large strides to make to improve its overall economic conditions for its citizens. Factors that have negatively impacted the DR’s economy are an increasing population, improper documentation of residents, natural disasters, and an agricultural sector that has been ignored by the government to focus on tourism and service.
8. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
With a per capita GDP of $6,898, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the eighth-poorest country in North America. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has high rates of poverty, as well as high rates of unemployment and underemployment because of trade difficulty. The island nation’s economy is primarily reliant on bananas, causing lawmakers to make diversifying and expanding the economy a priority.
9. Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is the ninth-poorest country in North America with a per capita GDP of $7,608. Saint Lucia’s poor infrastructure has left many people without electricity, safe water, and usable roads. This has limited people’s access to education, health care, and other communities and limits the type of industries in which they can take part. Additionally, the government is unable to provide resources for those facing poverty due to its own financial difficulties. Economic expansion is the key to alleviating poverty in Saint Lucia, specifically growing the agriculture and light manufacturing industries.
Cuba finishes the list of the ten poorest countries in North America with a GDP per capita of $7,918. Cuba fails to provide transportation, housing, and other necessities for its people. The leading causes of poverty in Cuba are the U.S. embargo that deprived Cuba exporters of the recipient of 95% of their products, reliance on the agricultural industry, the loss of the Soviet Union as an ally, and providing social services, such as health care and education, without having the money to do so.