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High, Middle and Low Income Countries

High, Middle and Low Income Countries

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify examples of high, middle, and low income countries.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain World Map; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on high, middle, and low income countries. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, driven fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today's a brief lesson explaining what high, middle, and low countries are. Now, you've probably heard of different terms than just high, middle, and low before. In fact, most likely, you've probably heard of either first world, second world, or third world or developed, developing, and undeveloped. They're all actually really talking about the same thing.

What happened is, after World War II, we started to look at the world and try to see how we're going to talk about the differences in the world. And how different America, being a really wealthy, prosperous nation, and a poor nation, like Uganda, how are we going to look at those things? Well, originally, after World War II, we looked at them as first world, second world, and third world countries. So the first world being the super wealthy ones, the second world being the ones in the middle, and the third world being the poor ones.

And then part of that was, after World War II, we had the Cold War going on. And we structured it generally that first world nations happened to be capitalist nations, and second world nations happened to be communist nations, and third world nations were somewhere else. It didn't exactly always work that way, but that was one of the underlying things that happened when we used that terminology.

Then, after the Cold War finished, and the Russians, USSR dissolved, then we started to use these terms developed, developing, and undeveloped. Nations still basically fell in the same category. If you were a first world nation initially, you then became a developed nation, not because you changed, because we're just labeling you differently.

But that also fell out of favor, because there's a real strong judgment value to saying, well, look, this nation is developed, and that nation is undeveloped. It's underdeveloped, that's really passing judgment on it, when you're really just classifying people based on how wealthy they are. Sorry, people there meaning nations.

So now, in the modern world, we have the classification of high income countries, middle income countries, and low income countries. Now, these measurements are based on some national measurement of the economy. Often, it's GDP which is the Gross Domestic Product.

There's many different things that can be different measurements that can be used to make these categories, but it really comes from looking at how wealthy a nation is. Are they wealthy? Are they a high income country, or are they a poor nation? Are they a low income country, or are they somewhere in the middle, middle income?

Now, this is another thing where what exactly is the rate? The percentage of GDP, what are the actual numbers you need to be a high versus middle versus low? Those are going to change from year to year based on the way the economies are just going in general and the global economy is going.

Well, let's first maybe look at what our high income nations? So I have the blue here on the map. The blue are trying to represent what high income nations are. And you can see that there is a high percentage of the European nations that are high income nations.

Japan, Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, North America, looking at Canada, and the United States of America, those are all what people call high income countries, and these nations are wealthy. There's a lot of differences between how wealthy some of these nations are, but across the board, all of them are wealthy. And so the standard of living for their citizens is higher than those of the other categories.

Next, we have middle income countries. You can see, a lot of the world also falls under middle income countries. We have most of South America and Latin America. We have Southern Africa, northern Africa, the majority of the Middle East, a lot of Asia. Those are middle income countries.

These countries are going to have some of the characteristics of high income nations and some of the characteristics of low income nations. For these nations, their population is about split between working in urban environments and working in rural environments. And the quality of living is not horrible, but it's considerably less than the high income nations the high income countries. And often, that can mean that, in the city areas, there's much more jobs and medical care, housing, the comforts of modern life, and in the rural areas, there's not as much of that.

Lastly, we have low income nations. Low income nations, they're a relatively small amount of the globe. I think, I don't know, one in five nations, maybe, are part of that. And you can see they're really centered around that center region of Africa and then a couple of pockets there in Asia, and these countries less people live in cities. So about a third of their population maybe lives in cities, and the rest of them are out in the rural area, where they're farmers, and they're following a much more traditional lifestyle.

In a lot of these countries, the majority of their people are dealing with just finding ways to live a safe life. There can be widespread hunger issues, disease issues. In fact, many of these nations, because of how financially poor they are, the citizens are looking for something better. So there's a lot of civil unrest, and there ends up being a lot of revolutions there. Those are the low income nations.

So today's takeaway message, we just learned about how we currently classify countries in the world, when we're looking at income. We learned about high income nations. So these are ones with a high standard of living, above average standard of living compared to other nations in the world.

We learned about middle income countries. These are ones who are about in the middle. They're average. And we looked at low income countries, and these are countries that have a low standard of living, and the majority of their population is living in poverty.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
High Income Countries

Countries with an above average standard of living as measured against the average global standard of living.

Low Income Countries

Countries with a below average standard of living as measured against the global average.

Middle Income Countries

Countries with a standard of living that is consistent with the global average.