Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coastlines, climate and coin

One approach to explaining why different regions have different levels of wealth looks at geographical advantages. The Gapminder Foundation explores this by plotting the wealth of every country in the world on a chart along with latitude and coloured by posession of coastline/landlocked. They find that there are no landlocked equatorial regions with high incomes: almost all wealthy countries have coasts and are far removed from the equator.

(The logic is broadly that equatorial regions have health disadvantages because of chronic diseases like malaria, as well as agricultural disadvantages because of rapid evaporation of water and so on. Coastlines are important for trade.)

Curious about this I found two maps that seem to support the idea that coastlines matter. First is this map of China, looking at GDP per capita in each of its provinces (in 1997):

The correlation here is strong, with coastal regions tending to be wealthier than inland regions.

Next is the US state map by per capita real GDP, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

All of the richest states except Wyoming are coastal while most of the poorest states have little or no coast. (The picture is not as clear as the Chinese map, though, with a large wealthy region west of the Great Lakes.)

When people ponder global wealth inequality they don't need to assume some kind of foul play or blame unfair trade systems. Inequality could be built into the soil nations are founded on.


  1. ironically the richest country by gdp per capita, leichtenstein is a landlocked country that is surrounded by landlocked countries.

  2. We need an Operation Leichtenstein Liberation to liberate them from their money, Rohan! :P


    and we got our justification :P


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