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Global Growth Tracker

The World Economy – 50 Years of Near Continuous Growth

Dariana Tani - May 2014

The World Economy has grown for 51 out of the past 52 years, as shown by the year-on-year chart below. Only the Great Recession saw a slight dip in real global GDP, measured in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms.

The chart and table 1 below illustrates world economic growth decade by decade over the past 53 years, in terms of real GDP and real GDP per capita. Over the whole of the last 5 decades, annual real GDP growth has averaged 3.8%, and 2.1% in per capita terms.

The chart below shows the percentage share of world’s real GDP split by continents, and illustrates that the share of world’s real GDP in the Asian region grew considerably faster than all other continents, from 16% in 1961 to 43% in 2013.

Table 2 and 3 below shows Real GDP and Real GDP per capita growth split by continent and decade. The tables show that the Asian and the African continents have seen accelerating growth in both GDP and GDP per capita over the past 53 years, while Europe and the Americas have experienced a decline.


Table 3 shows the same data in per capita terms, and illustrates the decline in growth in both Europe and the Americas over the past 53 years. In contrast both the Asian region and African continent have seen accelerating growth in both GDP and GDP per capita over recent decades.

Also, the charts below show GDP Growth and Per Capita GDP Growth by continent on a decade by decade basis.

The chart series below shows global GDP growth split by continent, illustrating relative GDP size and year on year growth.

Finally, the charts below show the same GDP data by continent in per capita terms. This illustrates the continuing wealth of Europe and the Americas compared with the Asian and African continent. Although the Asian region has grown much more rapidly than Europe or the Americas, as over the past 53 years, Asian GDP per capita is still on average 34% of the levels of Europe and the Americas, and African GDP per capita remains about 11% of the size of Europe and the Americas.

  • Real GDP data was taken from the World Economics Global GDP database
  • Population data was obtained from the Maddison and the United Nations tables
  • 2012/13 data was calculated from the year on year estimated % increase in real GDP from the IMF tables. (Gross domestic product, constant prices, % change
  • The data covers over 90% of global GDP

Due to inaccurate, missing data or political instability, the following countries have been omitted: American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bosnia, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Curacao, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Dominica, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Faeroe Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Georgia, Greenland, Grenada, Guam, Guyana, Haiti, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Isle of Man, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, North Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao SAR (China), Macedonia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Myanmar, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Northern Mariana Islands, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico, Qatar, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Saint Maarten (Dutch part), Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin (French Part), St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Virgin Islands (U.S.), West Bank and Gaza, Yemen.

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There are 2 comments on this paper.
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World Economics
758 days ago
Thank you for your comment, we appreciate all opinions and feedback. The data start year was set at 1960 as it was felt that data prior to 1960 lacks accuracy and may be affected by post WW2 reconstruction.

Branko Milanovic
759 days ago
There are way too many omitted countries. Data for almost all of them are available from WB, IMF, Maddison, their own SYs. Covering 90% of world GDP is too low. Also, it is possible to go back to 1952 for the world. Finally, there were several other years with neg. global growth of less than 1% (1980 & 1982)  and 1960 at -1.6%. Branko Milanovic

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