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A look at global generational growth

Data: Maddison Project Database via Our World In Data; Note: GDP per capita expressed in international U.S. dollars, adjusted for inflation and price differences between countries; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The average person on Earth is now 4.4 times richer than their ancestors were in 1950, according to an analysis by Max Roser, founder and editor of Our World in Data.

Why it matters: That's equivalent to the prosperity of a U.S. citizen in 1950 — when the U.S. was the world's richest country. In response, the world has seen a jump-start in education, an increase in life expectancy and lower child mortality rates.

The biggest winners have been smaller nations that have benefitted from the explosion of the global economy, usually via successes in technology or finance — places like South Korea (a 32.2x jump in per capita GDP since 1950), Taiwan (30.4x) and Singapore (27.5x).

  • The biggest losers have been countries that were near the bottom in 1950 and have stagnated or even declined since then. The successes of the rest of the world have left these countries — the Central African Republic (0.5x), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (0.5x) and Sierra Leone (0.6x) — on the far side of a widening inequality gap.

The bottom line: Roser, an Oxford economist, writes that he finds GDP per capita important, especially over time, because it acts as "a measure of means only and thereby respects the freedom of everyone to choose for themselves."

Go deeper: How 74 economies have performed this century