Four income levels

The four global Income Levels help us move away from simply categorizing people as either rich or poor. Most people are in the middle and have their basic needs met. Terms like ‘developing countries’ and ‘the West’ are outdated and unhelpful. That is why Gapminder divides the world into four Income Levels.

The four Income Levels are a helpful way to understand how people’s lives can change gradually with more money.

The image below shows how many of the world’s 7 billion people live on each Income Level (each figure represents one billion people).

Level 1 is people who earn less than $2 a day and live in extreme poverty. Most people live on Level 2, where they earn between $2 and $8 a day. On Level 3, people earn between $8 and $32. The richest billion people live on Level 4, where their income is more than $32 a day (an easy way to remember the threshold for each level is by multiplying the previous number by four, so 2 – 8 – 32).

Fifty years ago, more than half of the world’s population lived on Level 1. Today the share is only about 13%!

Are you curious about how people live in each income level?

Income Level 1

Income Level 2

Income Level 3

Income Level 4

The numbers of people on the four income levels have been defined by Gapminder based on data from PovcalNet and forecasts from IMF. Incomes are adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity $ 2011 from ICP.


Date Posted: 2018-03-09