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GDP data with interactive charts

Otto Kolbl

The chart below shows GDP per capita purchasing power parity for a couple of major countries across the world; this indicator is widely considered to be the best indicator for the standard of living. It gets its importance from the fact that it is strongly linked to infant mortality and to life expectancy: in the long term, GDP growth will necessarily lead to lower mortality, and it is the only way to achieve this objective.

With the various buttons and by clicking the data lines, you can add other countries to the chart, change the period and get detailed information about the data sources. Please consider this as "work in progress". Especially the data before 1950 is sometimes quite controversial. The biggest problem when working on this chart was to integrate various data sources into one coherent line for each country. The reliability of the data will be improved progressively, but this requires extensive reading about each single country and detailed statistical analysis. If you have got any reference or data which could help to improve this chart, don't hesitate to send us an email (About us – Contact us) or simply post a comment below.

GDP data across the world, on a logarithmic scale
GDP data across the world, on a logarithmic scale.

The gross domestic product (GDP) measures the value of the whole wealth produced in a country in a given year. It is generally measured in the currency of the country. After dividing it through the population in order to get GDP per capita (GDP PC), it becomes an indicator of the standard of living.

Making figures comparable across countries requires the conversion to one single currency. However, if we use the official exchange rates for this conversion, for example in order to convert all the figures to US dollars (USD), this does not tell us much about the standard of living of the population. When travelling to foreign countries, we can easily see that the same amount of dollars, if converted to the local currency, has got a different "purchasing power" in each country.

The "international dollar" has been invented precisely in order to solve this problem. The basic idea is that in each country, the local equivalent of one "international dollar" is the amount in local currency with which you can buy the same quantity of products of daily necessity as what you can buy with one US dollar in the USA. This way of compensating for differences in purchasing power is called "purchasing power parity" (PPP).

One last conversion is necessary to make figures comparable across time. In general, international organizations like the World Bank and the IMF provide figures in "current international dollars", which means that figures for each year are calculated according to the purchasing power of one dollar of the same year in the USA. Because of inflation, the purchasing power of the US dollar declines over the years. The international organizations provide a "deflator" which allows us to convert the "current" international dollars into the corresponding value for other years. On this website, all the values have been converted to 2010 international dollars. Only after such a conversion, it makes sense to represent the data on a chart, because all the values are measured in the same unit, for each country and for each year.


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