The poorest countries in the world
Samuel Stebbins, Michael B. Sauter and Thomas C. Frohlich
The distribution of wealth across the globe is anything but even. North America is home to just 4.9% of the world’s population — and 26.5% of its wealth. Meanwhile, South Asia is home to 23.7% of the global population but owns just 3.6% of global wealth.
While gross domestic product provides an accurate picture of the size of a nation’s economy, gross national income, or GNI, is a more precise measure of citizens' financial well-being, especially when considering GNI per capita. GNI includes GDP as well as the net income of the country’s residents obtained outside the country’s borders. In the United States, the annual GNI per capita of $53,245 is at least 21 times the GNI per capita in each of the world’s 25 poorest countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the poorest country in the world, GNI per capita is only $680 a year.
Economic development on a national scale often follows a similar pattern. Poor, developing countries are often largely rural and heavily dependent on agriculture, which is often comprised primarily of subsistence farming. Meanwhile, wealthier nations tend to have larger urban populations and a diverse industrial composition.
A series of complex factors tend to hold back many poor economies. While many of these factors are intangible, the poorest nations in the world share many identifiable common traits.
More on MSN: The 25 richest countries in the world
From former French colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa to former Soviet nations in Central Asia, the vast majority of the world’s poorest countries have only recently gained independence from a larger power. Political turmoil, violence, and civil war are all detrimental to economic growth and are often seemingly inevitable in newly autonomous states.
An educated populace and reliable infrastructure are preconditions for economic prosperity. Not surprisingly, they are often conspicuously lacking in the world’s poorest countries. In 17 of the 25 poorest countries, more than a third of the adult population is illiterate. Further stymieing any potential economic growth, less than half the population has access to electricity in 21 of the 25 poorest countries.
With severely limited financial resources, many poor countries also often lack an adequate number of doctors and modern health care systems. Partially as a result, life expectancy is far lower than it is in wealthier nations. In all of the 25 poorest countries, average life expectancy never exceeds 70 years. In the Central African nation of Chad, life expectancy at birth is only 51.6 years. U.S. life expectancy, in contrast, is 78.9 years.
Click ahead to see the 25 poorest countries, and then visit 24/7 Wall St. for the complete report and methodology.