Preconceived Ideas and Outdated Knowledge




by Joakim Larsen

September 2015



More than ever the concept Developing Countries is extremely doubtful. But despite a marked decrease in the separation of the World's countries, many people still believe it to be as it was…



In May 2015 a Danish TV journalist was reproven by Hans Rosling, Swedish professor of global health. The journalist was told off on a few false assumptions. And in this connection Hans Rosling was able to prove a point: media is generally focusing on isolated events, and thereby giving a onesided and misrepresented view of the World.


Hans Rosling also states that the present state of the World is very different from what many people in the “West” believe it to be. For here many people still assume their old perception to be true; and this perception is often based on preconceived ideas and outdated knowledge.



Decreasing National Division


Based on publicly available data from OECD, UN, IMF, various country and university databases, data from local and national organizations, and others, Hans Rosling illustrates that the twin humps of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, representing a gap between two separate worlds: the richest and the poorest countries… those twin humps are no longer there.


In the 1970’s large parts of the World population were living in absolute poverty - mainly in Asia. But since the 1980’s there has been a shift in the distribution of wealth in the World.


Concepts and perceptions like rich and a poor countries, the industrialized and the developing, the West and the Third World are increasingly diminishing. Today the two humps have merged into one single hump.



New Knowledge Based on Existing Data


Far from claiming momentousness in the distribution of wealth, and far from claiming that the extremes of wealth and poverty have been eradicated, however, Hans Rosling shows, how the state of the World is profoundly different today than the situation of just 15-20 years ago.


He does it by crossing social variables like number of children born per woman and life expectancy, with economic variables like income per capita (in average), and computers per 1.000 people, and the results are intriguing.



The Emergence of Middle Classes


Strong historic development indeed implies an increased homogenization of continents and countries across continents in both social and economic areas. And in many countries it is boosting the emergence of a middle class.


Today several Asian countries are emerging as modern countries and strong players in the global market. We still find underprivileged masses of people. But a middle class is emerging. It consists of educated people with middle income and families with 2-3 children. We see the same in f.i. India, Brazil and Kenya.


“The concept Developing Countries is extremely doubtful. We think about aid like the richest 20% having 74% of the World’s income, giving aid to the poorest 20% having 2% of the World’s income But in the middle we have most of the World’s population, 60%, and they now have 24% of the World’s income.” (Source:



Hans Rosling's 1970 - 2015 Projection of World Wealth Distribution. The 2015 still image above clearly shows the increasing overlap in the distribution of wealth across the continents.

Visit for the entire projection.



We Still See Absolute Poverty in Many Places


Certainly we see extremes of rich and poor, “the haves” and “the haves not”. But the gap between the humps representing marked division of the underprivileged part of the population is gone.


Furthermore there has been a strong misconception to look upon continents and regions as single homogeneous entities. But in fact you find tremendous variation in social variables as well as economic variables, in continents, in countries, in regions and even in local areas.



The Need for Contextualization


This fosters a need to highly contextualize our view of the world. Looking at social solutions for an entire continent is certainly not applicable. Neither is it applicable for a country or a region.


For this purpose, Hans Rosling has developed a graphic tool, a search engine, if you like, where you can browse on topics based on publicly available data. It is free and can be accessed through the web site




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