In American politics, the issue of income inequality comes up frequently. As wealth continues to concentrate at the top — now the wealthiest 10% of American households control nearly 75% of household net worth — the middle continues to shrink, and some previously thriving metro areas have been hard hit by extreme poverty.
But income inequality is not a uniquely American issue. Nations from all six populated continents have massive wealth gaps between their richest and poorest residents. Many of the most economically productive countries in the world have not been able to devise a way to stop, or even slow, the growing inequality.
Income inequality across a population is quantified using the Gini coefficient measure. On the Gini scale, inequality is measured from 0 to 1, where 0 represents a perfectly equal society and 1 represents extreme inequality where a single individual controls all the wealth.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Gini coefficient of 42 countries from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to identify the countries with the widest gaps between the rich and the poor. Both OECD member states and affiliated states were considered. OECD members tend to be high income nations, and income inequality may be even more pronounced in poorer countries not considered.
To determine the countries with the most uneven distribution of income, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed post-tax and transfer Gini coefficients published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We also considered data on GDP at purchasing power parity, poverty rate, unemployment, GDP per capita, as well as social spending (which the OECD defines as “cash benefits, direct in-kind provision of goods and services, and tax breaks with social purposes”) — all from the OECD. We also reviewed the Corruption Perceptions Index from global corruption watchdog Transparency International to gauge levels of public sector corruption. All figures are for the most recently available year. All ranks are for the OECD member and affiliated states with data available.
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