Top Countries by GDP Per Capita Over The Past 200 Years (1800-2016)
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Keywords: economic   history  
Look at the economic history of the world, from 1800-2016 through the lens of GDP per capita.
If you would like to learn more about Economic History, check out these books:
The Ascent of Money:
A Little History of Economics:

From the industrial revolution, through the great depression, all the past the 2008 financial crises. What caused great prosperity, what caused great economic downfalls?  How has inequality, and economic activity changed. We try to answer these questions.

All values in this video were adjusted for inflation relative to the US dollar in 2011.

Correction: WW2 started in 1939, not 1935.

Visualization created using Flourish Studio:
Data from the Madison Historical Project:
Supplementary Data from the World Bank:
Music credit to Bensound:
Narration from Amazon Polly:
Credit to Matt Navara for creating the bar chart race:

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Measurement of a nation’s overall economic activity. It is the total sum of all finished goods and services created within a nation.

GDP Per Capita: The total sum of a nations GDP divided by the population.
Inflation: The rate at which the price of a basket of goods is increases. Usually expressed as a percentage.


We start in 1800, midway through the industrial revolution. A spark ignited in the United Kingdom, that would gradually spread unprecedented prosperity throughout the world.

At this time, unprecedented wealth means that the average person in the UK produced less than $6 of economic activity a day.

However, this makes them 3 times wealthier than the average Polish resident. Who produced less than $2 a day.
In 1815 the Napoleonic wars come to an end. Mainland Europe begins to rebuild and take part in the industrial revolution.
In 1833, Slavery is finally abolished in the United Kingdom

In 1845, Ireland was hit by the Potato Famine. Over 1 million Irishmen to emigrate to the U.S., U.K. and Australia. During this time, over 3 million people would immigrate from Europe to these 3 countries.

In 1850 gold is discovered in Australia sparking a gold rush. The gold rush will eventually fuel a speculative boom in the property market. 
At this point, the citizens in the top 3 countries produce just over $10 a day. While working an average, of 60 hours a week. Which is considered luxurious, because in Belgium, the average employee works over 70 hours a week, to produce 23% less in economic activity.

In 1890 Australia’s property boom collapses. Australia’s federal bank falls and sets off a series of bank failures throughout the continent. 
From 1900 to 130 the US sees widespread adoption of electricity.
The average US citizen is now the wealthiest in the world, producing more than $20 a day.
In 19313 the United States establishes the federal reserve.

And in 1914, the world descends into the first world war.
Cheap credit from central banks fuel the economic boom known as the Roaring twenties.
Cheap credit eventually collapses the economy, and in 1929, the world enter the great depression.
In 1933 FDR signs The New Deal
And in 1935 the world falls back into the second world war.

The U.S. exits the war with incredible and sustained economic growth. The era is marked by massive leaps in technology, productivity and culture. It will come to be known as the golden age of capitalism.
In 1960, several of the top oil producing nations come together to form OPEC.
Starting in 1973, politics within OPEC force oil prices to rise from $3 to $28 a barrel, by the end of the decade.
Western countries start demanding less oil, which leads to a massive oversupply. In 1980 oil prices begin to crash.

However, the UAE successfully diversifies their economy. They are no longer entirely reliant on the price of oil.
9/11 2001, terrorists strike the world trade center. 2 years later the US invades Iraq, making oil prices spike once again.

This lasts until the housing market crashes, sparking the global financial crises, and oil prices begin to fall.

This brings us to current times. Global GDP per capita is now $17,300. According to the World
Bank, 101 out of 183 countries are now considered "high" or 
"upper middle income"

But 50 are still poorer than the U.S. was in 1800 at the beginning of this video

If you have any questions about economic history, or ideas for future videos, let us know in the comments. If you liked the video, then feel free to subscribe and press the notifications button bellow. And if you would like to learn more about economic history, then I recommend starting off with the Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. You can find it on amazon, by using the link in the description box.