Special Report

Countries With the Biggest Income Gaps

The wealth gap between the richest few and poorest many tends to widen whenever there is a dramatic change in the economy. The deficit began to expand in the middle of the 19th century at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and by the end of that century, had turned the famously rich – such figures as Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan  and John D. Rockefeller – into symbols of awe and scorn. 

In our time, as technology has reformed the economy and made a select few wealthy beyond measure, such billionaires as Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Tesla have become household names – though those names are sometimes uttered with derision. (In the U.S., these are the 25 cities with the most billionaires.)

Income inequality is spoken about often in the United States. But it is more than just an American issue. To find the 50 most unequal countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the World Inequality Database’s World Inequality Report 2022, which ranks countries by the ratio of the top 10% average income to the bottom 50% – or T10/B50. 

Click here to see the countries with the biggest income gaps

Wide wealth gaps occur on every continent, but they are most pronounced in Africa and Asia. Many countries in those places suffer from a legacy of colonization and prolonged civil conflict. Despite an abundance of resources in some of them, government corruption has placed wealth in the hands of a few, and mismanagement of revenue from energy resources has not been spent on infrastructure, the healthcare system, or education.

Other countries, such as those on the Arabian Peninsula and Ghana in Africa, have tapped their resources to stimulate rapidly developing economies. But the benefits of economic development have not necessarily flowed to all segments of society. (Income equality is far from a given, even in the 15 richest countries in the world.)

To find the 50 most unequal countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. used data on income, wealth and inequality from the World Inequality Database’s World Inequality Report 2022. Countries were ranked by the ratio of the top 10% average income to the bottom 50% average income – or T10/B50. For example, in the U.S., the top 10% earns on average 17 times more than the bottom 50%. All 174 countries in the report were considered for the pre-tax income data, and all data is as of 2021.

Wealth gap and average income data is also from the report, and reflect the 150 countries for which data was available. Average income is defined in the report as “the sum of all pretax personal income flows accruing to the owners of the production factors, labor and capital, including social insurance benefits (and removing corresponding contributions), but excluding other forms of redistribution (income tax, social assistance benefits, etc.)” The report uses purchasing power parity for inequality estimates. Estimates correct for inflation using the national income deflator (base 2021).