The 15 Largest Economies in the World

One of the most recognized metrics for measuring the economy of a country is Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is simply the measure of all goods and services produced during a specific period of time. In this bar chart race, you can see how the 15 largest economies in the world have changed over the last 60 years.

Exchange Rates

One thing to note in this chart is that it is measured in dollars. The GDP of the US is accurate, but the GDP of every other country has been converted from that country's currency and is thus dependent on the exchange rate with the US.

If you look at the UK as an example, you will notice that their GDP looks almost unchanged between 2008 and 2019. This is not because the economy did not grow, but because the exchange rate went from $2/£ to around $1.20/£ after the Brexit vote passed in 2016.

China Economic Growth

Probably the most remarkable economic story seen in this chart is for China. In 1960, China only had a GDP of around $60 billion. Compared to the US economy, it was only around 1/10 the size, despite having a population many times larger than the US. This doesn't change much throughout the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's. In fact, China moves down the chart through these decades and even falls out of the top 10 in the 1980's.

It's the 1990's when things start to pick up for the Chinese economy, and this is largely to do with the increased amount of trade China does with the US and rest of the world as they turn to China for cheap manufacturing. This growth continues unabated throughout the 2000's, where China's growth averages around 10% per year. In the last decade, that growth has continued to the point where China is now only 30% smaller than the US economy. Most economists predict that China will pass the US economy by 2030.

US Economic Growth

Despite China's impressive growth, the US is still the unchallenged economic leader in the world. With an economy worth $20 trillion, it makes up over 20% of the $88 trillion global economy. However, in 1960, the US GDP was almost HALF the global GDP. The rest of the world is catching up, not just China.

Much is this is due to the largely stagnant growth of North American and European economies in the last 20 years while many Asian, South American, and African nations have had incredible growth in that time period. More and more nations have risen out of poverty to build vibrant economies hooked into the global economy.

Japan Economic Growth

Another fascinating country to watch in this chart is Japan. In 1960, the Japanese economy was only worth $44 billion. By 1990, GDP had grown to over $3 trillion. That is unbelievable growth over 30 years. However, the last 30 years have seen mostly stagnant growth for Japan. They've only increased their economy to around $5 trillion in 2019, which is probably negative growth when you take inflation into account.

More In-depth Charts

This bar chart race covers the largest economies in the world, but we will move into more detailed charts in the months to come. As was stated earlier in the article, much of the world's growth has now shifted to the poorer countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. We will explore these continents to see where that growth is coming from.