World Economics - Insight , Analysis and Data

World Economics - Insight , Analysis and Data

Global Growth Tracker

The World Economy – 50 Years of Near Continuous Growth

James Waterson - February 2013

The World Economy has grown for 50 out of the past 51 years, as shown by the charts below. Only the Great Recession saw a slight dip in real global GDP, measured in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. 

The chart and table below illustrates world economic growth decade by decade over the last 51 years, in both real GDP terms and in terms of GDP per capita. Over the whole of the last 5 decades, real GDP per annum growth has remained over 3%, and in GDP per capita terms has averaged just under 2% per annum. 

The chart below and table 2 shows GDP growth split by continent, and illustrates vividly the rapid growth of the Asia-Pacific region which has been considerably faster than the level of growth in all other continents. The chart shows the Asia Pacific region grew from 14% of world GDP in 1960 to 39% in 2012.

Share of World Real GDP

Table 2 below shows world GDP split by decade and continent. 


Table 3 shows the same data in per capita terms, and illustrates the decline in growth in both Europe and the Americas over the 51 year period. In contrast both the Asia-Pacific region and African continent have seen accelerating growth in both GDP and GDP per capita over recent decades. 

Finally, the charts below show shares of world GDP and GDP per capita by continent on a decade by decade basis. 

The charts below show the very considerable growth of world real GDP and the share of this GDP by contrast, the massive growth of the Asia Pacific region from 14% of global GDP to 39% in 2012.

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

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 Asia Pacific and African continent. Although the Asia Pacific region has grown much more rapidly than Europe or the Americas, as over the past 51 years, GDP per capita is still only approximately 30% of the levels of Europe and the Americas, and African GDP per capita remains only a 10th of the size of Europe and the Americas. 

  • Data from 1960 – 2010 is taken from the Penn Data tables (PPP converted GDP Per Capita (Chain series) at 2005 constant prices * Population)
  • Population is from the World Bank
  • 2011/12 data is calculated from the year on year estimated % increase in real GDP from the IMF tables. (Gross domestic product, constant prices, % change)
  • Calculating historical data where missing was done by using a CAGR calculator to find average growth rates over the entire known period and back calculating at that %. These are: Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Sudan, Angola, Russia and Germany.
  • 2012 population statistics are taken from the year on year estimated % increase from the IMF World Economic Outlook tables.
  • Decadal growth rates calculated using a Compound annual growth rate calculator.
  • The data covers well over 90% of global GDP.

Due to inaccurate, missing data or political instability, the following countries have been omitted: American Samoa, Andorra, Aruba, Bahrain, Belarus, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Faeroe Islands, French Polynesia, Georgia, Greenland, Guam, Iran, Iraq, Isle of Man, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kiribati, North Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgz Republic, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Macao SAR (China), Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Myanmar, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Oman, Palau, Puerto Rico, Qatar, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sint Maarten (Dutch part), Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin (French Part), St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Virgin Islands (U.S.), West Bank and Gaza, Yemen.

Add a comment:
Display name:        Email address:

There are 2 comments on this paper.
(Have an opinion? Add your Comment above)

World Economics
439 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
440 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

© Copyright Economic & Financial Publishing 2014