GDP Per Capita: Definition, Uses, and Highest Per Country (2024)

What Is GDP Per Capita?

Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is an economic metric that breaks down a country's economic output to a per-person allocation. Economists use GDP per capita to determine the prosperity of countries based on their economic growth.

GDP per capita is calculated by dividing the GDP of a nation by its population. Countries with a higher GDP per capita tend to be those that are industrial and developed and have smaller populations compared to others.

Key Takeaways

  • Gross domestic product per capita is a country's economic output per person.
  • It's calculated by dividing the GDP of a country by its population.
  • GDP per capita along with overall GDP is used by economists to analyze the economic prosperity of a country and to compare it to other countries.
  • It's important to consider how much GDP and population each affect the GDP per capita figure.
  • Small, rich countries and more developed industrial nations tend to have the highest GDP per capita.

Understanding GDP Per Capita

Gross domestic product per capita is a global measurement used by economists to gauge the prosperity of nations based on economic growth.

There are a few ways to analyze a country’s wealth and prosperity. GDP per capita is the most universal because its components are regularly tracked on a global scale, providing ease of calculation and usage. Income per capita is another measure for global prosperity analysis but it's less broadly used.

The most basic interpretation of GDP per capita shows how much economic production value can be attributed to each individual citizen. Alternatively, GDP per capita translates to a measure of national wealth because GDP market value per person also readily serves as a prosperity measure.

GDP Per Capita vs. GDP

GDP itself is the primary measure of a country's economic productivity. A country's GDP shows the market value of the goods and services it produces. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports GDP every quarter in the United States. Economists watch this quarterly report closely for the quarter-over-quarter and annual growth figures that can assist them in analyzing the overall health of the economy.

Economists also use GDP for insight into how their domestic productivity compares to the productivity of other countries. Legislators use GDP figures when making fiscal policy decisions. GDP can also influence central bankers when they're deciding the course of future monetary policy.

GDP per capita is often analyzed along with GDP. It relates to both a country's GDP and its population so it can be important to understand how each factor affects GDP per capita growth.


Real GDP per capita in the U.S. for Q1 2024.

Implications of GDP Per Capita

Governments can use GDP per capita to understand how their economies are growing along with their populations. GDP per capita analysis on a national level can provide insights into a country’s domestic population influence.

Look at each variable’s contribution to the per capita figure to understand how an economy is growing or contracting relative to its population. There can be several numerical relationships that affect GDP per capita.

Growth can potentially be the result of technological advances that increase productivity with no change in population if a country’s GDP per capita is growing while the population level remains stable. Technology can be a revolutionary factor that helps countries increase their per capita rankings even as population figures are unchanged or decline.

Some countries may have high GDP per capita but a small population. This usually means that they've built a self-sufficient economy based on an abundance of special resources.

Negative GDP Per Capita

A nation may have consistent economic growth but GDP per capita growth will be negative if its population is growing faster than its GDP. This isn't a problem for most established economies because even a tepid pace of economic growth can still outpace their population growth rates.

But countries with existing low levels of GDP per capita, such as nations in Africa, and rapidly increasing populations combined with little GDP growth can experience a steady erosion of living standards.

GDP and Population Growth

Both GDP and population are factors in the per capita equation so countries with the highest GDP may or may not have the highest GDP per capita.

Global GDP per capita increased by an average of 2.3% in 2022, according to the latest World Bank data.

Economies such as those of China and India have achieved GDP per capita growth rates well above the global average in the 21st century despite their populations of over a billion people each. This is thanks to the financial reforms initiated by China in the late 1970s and by India in the mid-1990s.

Countries With the Highest GDP Per Capita

These are the 10 countries with the highest GDP per capita as of April 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Highest GDP Per Capita
CountryGDP Per Capita (USD)
Luxembourg$131.38 thousand
Ireland$106.06 thousand
Switzerland$105.67 thousand
Norway$94.66 thousand
Singapore$88.45 thousand
United States$85.37 thousand
Iceland$84.59 thousand
Qatar$81.4 thousand
Macao SAT$78.96 thousand
Denmark$68.9 thousand

Many of the countries on this list have relatively small populations. Luxembourg has one of the smallest with about 660,000 people in 2023. Most of these small-population countries are energy exporters, regional financial centers, and export business powerhouses.

Countries With the Lowest GDP Per Capita

Here are the 10 countries with the lowest GDP per capita as of April 2024, according to the IMF.

Lowest GDP Per Capita
CountryGDP Per Capita ($)
South Sudan$421.86
Sierra Leone$526.59
Central African Republic$537.6

Global Growth Projections

The IMF provides a regular outlook on the global growth of GDP. This growth can affect the outlook for the growth of GDP per capita.

The IMF expects global GDP growth of 3.1% in 2024 and 3.2% in 2025. The projection is slightly higher than the projection provided in October 2023 due to the resilience of the U.S. economy and many large emerging markets and developing economies.

The 2024/2025 projection is lower than the 3.8% annual average global growth from 2000 to 2019, The reasons given by the IMF include higher interest rates set by central banks as they continue to fight inflation, withdrawals of fiscal support because of high debt weighing on economic activity, and low underlying productivity in growth.

Advanced economies should see much slower rates of GDP growth but emerging market and developing economies are expected to see the highest rates of growth. This expected GDP growth should boost GDP per capita levels in these countries if populations remain stable.

How Is GDP Per Capita Calculated?

The calculation formula to determine GDP per capita is a country's gross domestic product divided by its population. GDP per capita reflects a nation's standard of living.

Which Countries Have the Highest GDP Per Capita?

The countries with the highest GDP per capita tend to be those that are the most industrialized and developed. According to the IMF, the three countries with the highest GDP per capita as of April 2024 are Luxembourg, Ireland, and Switzerland.

What's the Difference Between GDP Per Capita and Per Capita Income?

GDP per capita is the economic output of a nation per person. It's used to measure the prosperity of a nation. Per capita income is the amount of money earned per person. It's used to determine the standard of living and quality of life of a population.

Which Country Has the Lowest GDP Per Capita?

Burundi, South Sudan, and Malawi have the lowest GDP per capita of the countries for which the IMF publishes data.

The Bottom Line

GDP per capita is a popular metric used to measure the average prosperity and well-being of a country. It takes populations into account, unlike some other measures of economic productivity, allowing easy comparisons between countries with different populations.

GDP Per Capita: Definition, Uses, and Highest Per Country (2024)


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