Money, the thing on everybody’s mind, takes center stage in practically every facet of daily life when we consider that just about everything we need, do, or desire, is - in one form or another - monetized.
Throughout history, money has taken a variety of forms — shells, strips of leather, even livestock were used as early systems of currency. The earliest form of trade, the act of purchasing something before the inception of our highly sophisticated monetary system, essentially meant swapping what you had of value with something else of what was deemed to be equivalent value. While that simple system still remains the basis of monetary exchange today, the invention of an entire system of symbolic value attests to the ingenuity of the human mind and our knack for shaping the world around us to cater to our innovative and creative natures - for better or worse.
The development of a system of currency was in the past one of the key indicators of an empire’s influence, power, and self-sustainability. Evidently, this remains true to this day, with some of the world’s leading and most innovative nations not surprisingly being the wealthiest. Of course, poverty is one of the leading causes of death around the world, and this fact emphasizes the reality that financial disparity continues to rein in a variety of social issues for every country, even the very richest. The fact that some of the richest countries also have notably high poverty rates and profound income inequality makes it clear that, on a national level, being rich doesn't necessarily mean being better off.
According to the World Bank, the 12 largest economies in the world make up two-thirds of the world’s economy — evidently, the problem of unequal distribution extends to the international playing field. So who has the fattest slice of the money pie? We’ve ranked the top 10 richest countries of 2014 based on the sheer girth of their economies, determined by their purchasing power in U.S. dollar sums. The data featured here was collected by CNN from the IMF and the World Economic Outlook. For further insight we make note of each country’s ranking on the CIA World Factbook country comparison of GDP per capita rates, while also emphasizing the income inequality in each of these nominally wealthy countries by specifying the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line in each given country.
India comes in as the 10th wealthiest economy in 2014 with a purchasing power of $2.0 trillion. However, the densely populated country has a considerably low GDP per capita at $4,000, ranking 169th place out of 228 countries listed in the World Factbook country comparison chart. Despite India’s great economic wealth, a whopping 29.8 percent of Indian citizens live below the poverty line.
Russia’s economy boasts $2.1 trillion but ranks 77th place in the World Factbook country comparison with a GDP per capita of $18, 100. In Russia, 11 percent of citizens live below the poverty line.
Italy has an economy valued at $2.2 Trillion. The GDP per capita in this country is $29,600, placing it as the 51st highest in the world. There is a relatively high poverty rate in this country, with 29.9 percent of Italians living below the line.
Tying with Italy, Brazil has an economy of $2.2 trillion. Despite the recent attention drawn to the state of the country during the recent World Cup tournament, Brazil’s economy makes it to this list. That’s not to say its social and political problems aren't real; the GDP per capita in this country is a low $12,100, making it 105th place on the country comparison chart. 21.1 percent of Brazilians currently live below the poverty line.
The United Kingdom has an economy worth $2.8 trillion in purchasing power in 2014. With a relatively strong GDP per capita of $37, 300, the United Kingdom doesn’t seem so badly off, ranking 34th place in the world. 16.2 percent of people in this country live below the poverty line.
France has an economy worth $2.9 trillion. It ranks 39th place in the World Factbook's GDP per capita country comparison with a GDP per capita of $35,700. The country also has a low poverty rate with 7.9 percent of French people living below the poverty line.
Germany has a purchasing power of $3.9 trillion, marking it out as the wealthiest economy of all the European countries. Germany also ranks a strong 29th place in the GDP per capita country comparison with a GDP per capita of $39, 500. With 15.5 percent of Germans living below the poverty line, the country does have some work to do in terms of encouraging the trickle down effect.
With a purchasing power of $4.8 trillion, Japan takes third place on our list of most affluent economies. The GDP per capita in Japan is $37, 100, making it 36th place in terms of GDP. As of 2010, 16 percent of Japanese citizens are living below the poverty line.
With a growing economy, China has a purchasing power of $10.0 trillion. But in terms of GDP per capita, it is not a world leader, coming in at number 121 on the World Factbook’s GDP per capita country comparison with a GDP per capita of a low $9,800. Only 6.1 percent of Chinese citizens live below the poverty line in this country but it bears mentioning that in 2013, China set a new poverty line at $3,630 per person.
Boasting $17.5 trillion in purchasing power, the United States continues to reign the number one richest economy in the world. This level of financial fruition lends it a relatively high GDP per capita at $52, 800, taking 14th place on the World Factbook’s country comparison — the highest ranking of all the countries featured on this list. In 2010, 15.1 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line; not a shocking figure in comparison to the many countries where that number is so much greater, but certainly something to consider in light of the wealth of the nation overall.