Top Six Countries With the Greatest Economic Inequality

September 25, 2018

Slum (favela) and skyscrapers in Brazil

Economic inequality refers to the difference between those with the most wealth and those with the least in a country. The most widely used measure of inequality is called the Gini coefficient, which is a number between 0 and 1.

When the Gini is 0, everyone in the country has the same income, and when it is 1 all national income is concentrated in the hands of a single person. These are the countries with the lowest Gini coefficients.

South Africa

South Africa leads the world in terms of income inequality. To put that in perspective, the poorest 20 percent of the population consume less than three percent of the country’s wealth, while the top 20 percent consume around 65 percent. In large part, South Africa’s inequality is a legacy of the country’s harsh apartheid policy, which officially lasted from 1948 until 1994.


Namibia only achieved independence from South Africa in 1990, and in many ways inherited that country’s political problems. Although the make up less than 7 percent of the population, White Namibians own a large percentage of the country’s land, which has permitted them to concentrate much of the country’s wealth in their hands.


Haiti is consistently one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and is also prone to frequent natural disasters. The country was born from a slave rebellion in the early 19th century, and the inequality that resulted from that time has never fully disappeared. The majority of the country lives on less than 500 US dollars per month, while the wealthiest live in secluded luxury.


According to international economic measures, Botswana has experienced long-term economic growth overall. Those same measures, however, also report that the growth has been very concentrated among the country’s financial elite. The economic difference between the large percentage of people who live in rural areas and those who live in Gaborone, the largest city, is one of the largest in the world.


Suriname is located in South America, and spent much of its modern history as an agricultural colony of the Netherlands. After gaining independence in 1975, a series of military dictatorships led the country for a number of years. Today much of the economy is focused on mining, which concentrates the profits in the hands of only a few owners.


Although Zambia has relatively low unemployment for a developing country, a large percentage of those with a job work in informal and unstable conditions. Others work in agriculture and mining, both of which are associated with low wages. The college educated are only one percent of the population, but make many times more money than those without a degree.