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GNP per Capita Teaching Activities
Gross national product (GNP) per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final output of goods and services in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens. Knowing a country’s GNP per capita is a good first step toward understanding its economic strengths and needs.
  • GNP per capita is much lower in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
  • Low- and middle-income countries produce about 20 percent of the world’s goods and services, but have more than 80 percent of the world’s population.
  • Although the GNP of low- and middle-income countries grew between 1980 and 1998, this growth was often counteracted by rapid population growth.
  • Despite large differences in the GNP per capita of high-, middle-, and low-income countries, the trend across all countries is for the richest 20 percent of the population to earn incomes that are many times higher than the poorest 20 percent.
  • By itself, GNP per capita cannot measure people’s well-being or a country’s success in development. It does not show what is being produced, whether all people share equally in the income of a country, or whether a country has depleted or degraded its natural resources to achieve economic growth.
Exploring GNP per Capita Text

1. Read the definition of GNP per capita and answer the following questions:

  1. What does this indicator measure?
  2. Why is knowing GNP per capita helpful in studying development?

2. Read the definitions of low-income, middle-income and high-income countries and answer the following questions:

  1. What was the highest GNP per capita a country could have in 1998 to be included among the low-income countries?
  2. What would you expect the general living conditions to be like in a low-income country?
  3. What was the range of GNP per capita for middle-income countries in 1998?
  4. What would you expect the general living conditions to be like in a middle-income country?
  5. What was the range of GNP per capita for high-income countries in 1998?
  6. What would you expect the general living conditions to be like in a high-income country?

3. The items listed below would be included in calculating a country’s GNP. Which items are goods? Which are services?

  • food
  • housing
  • teachers’ salaries
  • home computers
  • getting a haircut at the hairdressers

4. Answer each of the following questions briefly, referring back to the text if necessary.

  1. Name three factors that influence economic growth.
  2. How can population growth rate affect the GNP per capita growth rate?
  3. Does GNP per capita give a complete picture of the standard of living of all people in a country? Why or why not?

5. Calculate GNP per capita for countries A and B using this formula: GNP Population = GNP per capita

GNP Population GNP per capita
Country A $16,512,000,000 103,200,000  
Country B $1,560,060,000,000 121,500,000  

Based on your answers, identify each country as low income, middle income, or high income.

6. Use the population information in the table below to answer the question that follows.

  Percentage
of total world
population, 1998
GNP
per capita,
1998
Low-income economies 60% $520
Middle-income economies 25% $2,990
High-income economies 15% $25,480

How many times greater is the average GNP per capita of high-income countries than that of low-income countries?

7. Read the definition of growth rates, then calculate the annual GNP per capita growth rates for countries A and B using the following formula:

Change
in GNP
per capita
in a year
÷ GNP per
capita
at the start
of the year
x 100 = Annual
GNP per
capita
growth rate (%)
  GNP per
capita at
the start
of the year
GNP per
capita at
the end
of the year
Changes in
GNP per
capita during
the year
Annual
GNP per
capita
growth rate
Country A $113 $110    
Country B $1,590 $1,700    

Note: Average annual growth rates of GNP per capita for a period of years provide a better picture than rates for a single year. Calculating any growth rate for a period longer than a year requires more complicated mathematical formulas than the one used to calculate an annual rate.

8. Purchasing power parity (PPP) is used to compare how much a dollar can buy in different countries. If GNP per capita goes up after being adjusted for PPP, one can buy more goods and services than the GNP per capita figure would suggest. If it goes down after adjustment, one can buy less than the figure would suggest. Look at the following table and answer the questions below.

  GNP per capita
1998
GNP per capita
(PPP) 1998
Country A $17,390 $23,790
Country B $31,250 $27,940
  1. In which country would you be able to purchase more with a dollar?
  2. In which country is the average person likely to have the better standard of living?
  3. Based on these data, in which country would you prefer to live? Explain your answer.

9. Natural resource accounting tries to measure and allow for the costs of depleting natural resources and degrading the environment that can be part of economic growth. Listed below are some products that would add value to a country’s GNP. For each product, list some potential environmental and resource costs that might not be recognized in GNP, but which would be included in natural resource accounting.

Product Potential environmental and resource costs

Wood furniture

 
Food crops  
Electricity from a coal burning plant  

Exploring GNP per Capita Map


GNP per Capita, 1998

1. According to the map key, which color represents low-income economies? Which color represents middle-income economies? Which color represents high-income economies?

2. Find Argentina, Germany, India, South Africa, and United Arab Emirates on the map. What income group does each country belong to? Compare the color of each country with those of its neighbors. To what extent is each country typical of conditions in its area and region?

3. Which income group is most represented in Sub-Saharan Africa? South America? North America?

Exploring GNP per Capita Chart 1


Chart 1. Population, GNP, and GNP per Capita, 1998

1. Study Chart 1 which shows GNP, population, and GNP per capita for low- and middle-income and high-income countries. What does it show you about the differences in the production of goods and services between high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries?

2. Compare GNP per capita in low- and middle-income and high-income countries.

  1. Refer to the Basic Data Tables and choose four countries—your own, one low-income, one middle-income, and one high-income.
  2. Refer to column 3 in the Basic Data Tables and find the GNP per capita in 1998 for each country you selected.
  3. How many times larger is GNP per capita in the high-income country than in the low-income and middle-income countries? (Divide GNP per capita in the high-income country by GNP per capita in each of the developing countries.)
  4. How many times larger or smaller is the GNP per capita in your country than that in the middle-income country?

3. If a country slows down its population growth rate, is its GNP per capita likely to increase or decrease?

4. Based on the text and your own knowledge, list three possible social and three possible economic reasons for the difference in productivity between high-income and low- and middle-income countries.

Exploring GNP per Capita Chart 2


Chart 2. Growth of GNP, Population, and GNP per capita,
1980-1998 (with and without China & India)

1. Read the definition of growth rates then use the data from Chart 2 to complete the following table:
  GNP
growth rate
Population
growth rate
GNP per capita
growth rate
Low-income economies (with China and India)      
Low-income economies (without China and India)      
Middle-income economies      
High-income economies      

 

2. When calculating data trends by country income groups, the low-income country group data are frequently calculated both with and without China and India. This is because China and India are so large that trends in their individual populations, economies, and environments can overshadow trends throughout the remaining countries in the group.

  1. Looking at Chart 2, how do the low-income country growth rates with and without China and India compare?
  2. What do these comparisons tell you about growth rates of GNP, population, and GNP per capita in China and India?

3. Study the growth rate data from the table you created for question 1. Imagine you are the leader of a country and have pledged to improve the standard of living for your average citizens. Which income group’s GNP growth rate would you try to match? Explain. Which income group’s population growth rate would you try to imitate? Explain. Why would this be a good combination?

4. Looking back at the text and at the data in the table you created for question 1, argue for or against the following statement:

"Raising standards of living in low-income countries depends
on one thing only: reducing population growth."

Exploring GNP per Capita Chart 3

Chart3.1 & Chart3.2. Income Distribution in Three Countries for
Percentage of Households

Share of income
  Richest 20% Middle 60% Poorest 20%
Tanzania 45.5% 47.7% 6.8%
Morocco 46.6% 46.7% 6.5%
United Kingdom 43.0% 50.5% 6.6%

1. Chart 3.1 shows the percentage of GNP earned by the richest 20 percent, middle 60 percent, and poorest 20 percent of a low-income, middle-income, and high-income country (actual percentages are given in the table above).

  1. Compare the portion of GNP earned by the poorest 20 percent of each of the countries. How much difference is there between the countries?
  2. In which country does the "middle class" get the largest percentage of income? How does this compare with the other two countries?
  3. In which country does the wealthiest class receive the largest percentage of income?How does this compare with the other two countries?
  4. Make a statement that describes the patterns of income distribution in these three countries.

2. Since national income tends to be closely related to quality of life indicators, what patterns would you expect to see in life expectancies, literacy rates, and access to safe water and sanitation among rich and poor people within nations?

3. Look at Chart 3.2 to see the actual average per capita incomes for the richest, middle, and poorest groups of people in these three countries.

  1. How does the average per capita income of the richest 20 percent of Tanzania compare with that of the poorest 20 percent of Morocco?
  2. How does the average per capita income of the richest 20 percent of Morocco compare with that of the poorest 20 percent of the United Kingdom?
  3. Based solely on average per capita income, it would appear that everyone, even the poor in the United Kingdom would have a better standard of living than people in Morocco or Tanzania. What factors would change that?

Exploring GNP per Capita Data Tables

1. Read the definition of purchasing power parity (PPP), then compare the GNP per capita and the PPP columns in the Economic Data Tables. In which countries is the GNP per capita higher than the GNP per capita adjusted for PPP? In which income group are these countries? What does this tell you about the cost of goods and services in these countries?

2. Make a copy of the blank Comparative Data Table and label the first column Countries, the second column GNP per capita, 1998, the third Population growth rate, 1980-98, the fourth Life expectancy at birth, 1998, and the fifth Access to safe water, 1990-96. Then, using the text and the Basic Data Tables, fill in the chart according to the instructions below.
(Note. The Work On Line version tables are already labeled.)

  1. Choose a low-income country in Sub-Saharan Africa and one in Asia (South and East) and the Pacific and write their names in the first column.
  2. Choose a middle-income country in Europe and Central Asia, one in Middle East and North Africa, and one in South America, and add them to the first column.
  3. Choose a high-income country in North and Central America and the Caribbean, one in Europe and Central Asia, and one in Asia (South and East) and the Pacific and add them to the first column.
  4. Label each country in your data table with an L, M, or H to show which income group it belongs to: low, middle, or high.
  5. Read the definitions of GNP per capita, population growth rate, life expectancy at birth, and access to safe water. Go to the Basic Data Table, and for each of your countries, find the 1998 GNP per capita, 1980-98 population growth rate, 1998 life expectancy at birth, and 1990-96 percentage of population with access to safe water, and write this information in the appropriate columns. If data for one of the indicators are not available, select another country from the same income group and region.
  6. Rank the countries, with "1" equaling the highest GNP per capita and "8" equaling the lowest. Write the appropriate ranking number in parentheses after the data in column 2.
  7. Study your chart and answer the following questions:
    • In the countries with the lowest GNP per capita, are the other indicators high or low?
    • In the middle-income countries, are the other indicators higher or lower than in the low-income countries?
    • In the high-income countries, are the other indicators higher or lower than in the developing countries?
  8. Based on your chart, is GNP per capita a good general indicator of the standard of living of a country? Why or why not?

3. Make a copy of the blank Comparative Data Table and label the first column Countries, the second column GNP per capita, 1998, and the third column GNP per capita, PPP, 1998. Compare GNP per capita and GNP per capita adjusted for PPP in six countries from six different regions of the world by following these steps:
(Note. The Work On Line version tables are already labeled.)

  1. In the column at the left of the table, write the following countries and their regions. Brazil (South America); Ghana (Sub-Saharan Africa); Philippines (Asia, South and East, and the Pacific); Egypt (Middle East and North Africa); Canada (North and Central America and the Caribbean); Russian Federation (Europe and Central Asia).
  2. Use the Economic Data Table to find the GNP per capita for each country and fill in column 2 in your table.
  3. Use the Economic Data Table to find the GNP per capita adjusted for PPP for each country and fill in column 3 in your table. Are there any substantial changes in GNP per capita when it is adjusted for purchasing power parity?
  4. On a separate piece of paper, classify each country as low, middle, or high income according to its GNP per capita adjusted for PPP. Did any of the countries change from one classification to another? What does this tell you about GNP per capita data? What does this tell you about GNP per capita data?

4. Take the Comparative Data Table you prepared for question 2 above, and add a sixth column labeled GNP per capita, PPP, 1998.

  1. Use the Economic Data Table to find the GNP per capita adjusted for PPP for each of your countries and fill in column 6 in your table. Are there any substantial changes in GNP per capita of each country when that GNP per capita is adjusted for purchasing power parity?
  2. On a separate piece of paper, classify each country as low, middle, or high income according to its GNP per capita adjusted for PPP. Did any of the countries change from one classification to another?
  3. Are differences between GNP per capita and GNP per capita adjusted for PPP reflected in any of the other indicators for the countries you chose? Explain. (For example, if one of your countries shifts from a middle-income to a high-income country when its GNP per capita is adjusted for PPP, does that country have a higher percentage of its population with access to safe water and sanitation than your other middle-income countries?)

Exploring GNP per Capita Photo 1


Loading Bananas, Ecuador

1. Look at the photograph. Describe what you see.

2. Would this be a common scene in your country? Why or why not?

3. In which country was this photograph taken?

4. Find the country in the world and regional map gallery. What region is it in?

5. Find the country in the Basic Data Table and determine if it is a low-, middle-, or high-income economy.

6. According to the Basic Data Table, what is this country's projected population growth rate for 1998-2015? Its 1998 life expectancy at birth? Its 1998 GNP per capita? Its 1990-1996 percentage of population with access to safe water?

7. What do you think life is like for the average person in this country? Support your answer.

8. What, if any, aspects of the activity shown in the photograph might help improve living standards in industrial countries? In developing countries?

9. Which sector of development (i.e., social, economic or environmental) is best represented by the photograph? Explain your answer. Is it possible for this photograph to represent other sectors as well? In what way?

10. To what extent does the activity in the photograph demonstrate sustainable development? Explain your answer.

Exploring GNP per Capita Photo 2

Computer Work, Thailand

1. Look at the photograph. Describe what you see.

2. Would this be a common scene in your country? Why or why not?

3. In which country was this photograph taken?

4. Find the country in the world and regional map gallery. What region is it in?

5. Find the country in the Basic Data Table and determine if it is a low-, middle-, or high-income economy.

6. According to the Basic Data Table, what is this country's projected population growth rate for 1998-2015? Its 1998 life expectancy at birth? Its 1998 GNP per capita? Its 1990-1996 percentage of population with access to safe water?

7. What do you think life is like for the average person in this country? Support your answer.

8. What, if any, aspects of the activity shown in the photograph might help improve living standards in industrial countries? In developing countries?

9. Which sector of development (i.e., social, economic or environmental) is best represented by the photograph? Explain your answer. Is it possible for this photograph to represent other sectors as well? In what way?

10. To what extent does the activity in the photograph demonstrate sustainable development? Explain your answer.

Exploring GNP per Capita Case Study 1
1. Before receiving her loan, how did Mala and her husband support their family?

2. What did Mala use her SHARE loan for?

3. Aside from giving some additional income, how did Mala’s investment add to the financial stability of the family?

4. Why didn’t Mala use the money she borrowed from SHARE to pay for the roof and her children’s shoes?

5. Who are the clients served by the SHARE loan program?

6. How does microfinance work?

7. How can microfinance, which works on a small, individual level, affect the larger economy?

8. This case study shows how microfinancing works in developing economies. Would industrial economies be able to benefit from a similar system? Explain your answer.

9. How do people get small business loans where you live? How well does the system work? Explain your answer.

GNP per Capita Research and Explore

1. Listed below are some activities that would help increase a country's GNP per capita growth. Assume that you are an officer in the Ministry of Planning. Because funds are limited, not all plans can be implemented at once.

  1. Rank the following activities in the order in which you would undertake them. Explain why you chose this ranking.
    • Resurface and broaden a highway for trucks carrying logs from the country’s largest forest to its only seaport.
    • Provide subsidized loans to banks so they can make small loans with low interest rates to 500 small business owners.
    • Equip twenty minibuses to provide health care and family planning services in rural areas; train and pay salaries of bus workers.
    • Train 100 secondary school graduates to teach in understaffed primary schools and to run adult literacy programs.
    • Train and equip fifty field workers and pay their salaries for a year; each trainee will teach 100 farmers to use a new planting technique that will help increase production.
    1. Are there any activities you would not undertake? Explain.
    2. Think of three additional programs that could help increase GNP per capita. Describe each program and explain how you would fit them into your ranking.

    2. How does your local government spend its money? Use your local newspaper, government offices, council members, and other sources to find out what community infrastructure projects (for example, roads, railways, buildings, telecommunications systems, energy supply systems, or water and sanitation systems) have been approved by your local government within the last year. Choose one project that is interesting to you, and answer the following questions:

    1. What is the nature of this project?
    2. Who will benefit from this project, everyone or a segment of the population? Explain your answer.
    3. How much will the project cost?
    4. Who will pay for the project? Are all of the funds public, or are there also private investments? If some of the funds are private, who are these investors and how do they intend to benefit from the project?
    5. Who will pay for maintenance?
    6. Were the environmental impacts of the project considered? Explain.
    7. Were there any people opposed to the project? If so, what were their arguments against the project? Were these arguments valid? Explain.
    8. In your opinion, will this project contribute to sustainable development? Explain.

    3. How has technology affected the workplace? Interview someone in your family or community who has performed the same work or has worked at the same company for 5 - 10 years to find out how technology has or has not altered their work productivity and environment and job security.

    1. Find out what your subject does and how long he or she has been in that position. Then ask the following questions:
      • Has the amount of technology you use in your job changed since you started working?
      • If no, are there any parts of your job that you think could benefit from using more technology? In what way?
      • If yes, how has technology affected the way in which you do your job?
      • What kind of training did you get with the new technology? Was it enough? Explain.
      • How has technology affected the number of people or the amount of time required to do your job?
      • How has technology affected the amount of pollution generated in the production process?
      • How has technology affected relationships among employees?
      • How has technology affected the quality of the product?
      • How has technology affected profits?
    2. List at least five additional questions you will ask when you interview your subject.
    3. Based on your interview, prepare an oral presentation or write a report discussing whether technological changes have contributed to sustainable development in your subject’s field of work.

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