A global resurgence in national self-reliance might actually be a good thing for America’s place in the world.
Year in year out, countries that have long scaled the poverty line battle for the
As more wealth is created in the world, more of it is concentrated among the richest people in the richest countries. The combined gross domestic product of countries for which there is data adds up to $116.7 trillion. Nearly $93 trillion of that wealth is concentrated among just 25 countries.
GDP may be the standard method for gauging the size of a particular country or region’s economy, but it does not account for all of the wealth generated by that nation. A more accurate indicator of a country’s economic output is its gross national income, or GNI. This measure captures all economic activity within a nation’s borders in addition to the wealth created by nationally-owned entities operating in other countries.
• GNI per capita: $48,994
• 2017 GDP: $835.8 billion (27th out of 196 countries)
• Population: 17.1 million
• Life expectancy at birth: 81.6 years
One of the richest countries in the world, the Netherlands’ GNI per capita is nearly $49,000. The country’s economy relies heavily on exports. In 2017, the country’s exports generated the equivalent of nearly 83% of the nation’s GDP — more than double the rate of the average country.
With an average life expectancy of 81.6 years at birth, the Netherlands has among the best health outcomes in the world. It also ranks better than most countries in terms of infant and maternal mortality.
14. Saudi Arabia
• GNI per capita: $49,626
• 2017 GDP: $1.6 trillion (16th out of 196 countries)
• Population: 32.9 million
• Life expectancy at birth: 74.7 years
Saudi Arabia ranks among the richest countries in the world for one reason — oil. In the resource-rich kingdom, petroleum accounted for more than three-quarters of exports in 2017. No country exports more crude petroleum than Saudi Arabia.
While petroleum is lucrative, without a diversified economy, Saudi Arabia is vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. It is one of just two countries to rank among the richest in the world that also saw a decline in its GDP over the past year. The other, Kuwait, also relies heavily on petroleum. Saudi Arabia’s economy contracted by nearly 0.9% in 2017.
• GNI per capita: $52,755
• 2017 GDP: $320.2 billion (50th out of 196 countries)
• Population: 4.8 million
• Life expectancy at birth: 82.0 years
Ireland is one of just 13 countries in which the GNI per capita exceeded $50,000 in 2017. The country also has one of the fastest growing economies, with a 7.2% annual increase in its GDP. Worldwide, the annual GDP increase was less than 3.2%.
Ireland relies heavily on exports. Ireland’s top exports are chemicals, like packaged medicaments. Its exports are actually worth more than its GDP, which is the case in only seven other countries. Ireland’s exports are worth nearly 20% more than its GDP of over $320 billion.
12. United States
• GNI per capita: $55,351
• 2017 GDP: $17.7 trillion (2nd out of 196 countries)
• Population: 325.1 million
• Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years
One of the wealthiest nations in the world, the United States has a GNI per capita of more than $55,000. With such relative prosperity, the United States has been an attractive destination for immigrants, and the U.S. reported net migration of 4.5 million people in 2017, the highest total of any nation in the world.
Unlike nearly every other nation to rank among the richest in the world, the United States does not rely heavily on exports. The total export value of goods and services from the United States is equal to just 12.1% of GDP, the lowest share on this list and one of the lowest in the world. For context, exports are equal to an average of 29.4% of GDP globally. Among the 25 richest countries for which there is data, the United States also has the highest level of income inequality.
• GNI per capita: $58,138
• 2017 GDP: $490.2 billion (37th out of 196 countries)
• Population: 8.5 million
• Life expectancy at birth: 83.6 years
One of the richest countries in the world, Switzerland has a GNI per capita of $58,138. Though Switzerland has a fairly diverse economy, gold makes up by far the largest share of its exports. About a quarter of the nation’s $285 billion in exports in 2017 was in gold. Despite being a relatively small country of less than 8.5 million people, Switzerland is one of the countries that controls a large share of the world’s gold.
Switzerland partially relies on innovation to drive economic growth by investing the equivalent of 3.4% of its GDP in research and development — the third highest rate in the world.
10. Hong Kong
• GNI per capita: $58,420
• 2017 GDP: $414.3 billion (43rd out of 196 countries)
• Population: 7.4 million
• Life expectancy at birth: 84.7 years
Hong Kong is not a fully independent nation, but rather a special administrative region of China. But it has its own powerful economy with a GDP of $414.3 billion and a GNI per capita of $58,420 per person. In addition to being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Hong Kong is also one of the healthiest. The average life expectancy at birth in the country of 84.7 years is more than 12 years longer than the global average and about six years longer than in the United States.
Hong Kong has a diverse economy, exporting machines like broadcasting equipment as well as precious metals and minerals like gold, silver, and diamonds.