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Visualizing The Largest Economies in The World Over the Last 40 Years (Update: February 2021)

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant lasting damage to the global economy in several different ways. It’s unclear if vaccines provide sufficient protection against the new variants, and leaders are now starting to plan for a long effort to combat the virus. Here’s how the top 10 economies in the world are weathering the storm.

Biggest Economies

  • Before this decade, the U.S. consistently had the largest economy in the world for the last 40 years, growing from $2.86T in 1980 to a projected $22.97T next year.
  • Asian countries reached the top of the rankings, and Western European countries declined. Italy is no longer in the top 10, and Germany, France and the U.K. have all fallen further down the ranking.
  • China is expected to remain the largest economy in the world with a GDP of $28.78T in 2022, up from $26.73T this year and $24.16T the year prior.
  • The U.S. economy is projected to grow only modestly to $22.97T by the end of next year, up from $21.92T this year.
  • The U.K and Brazil are set to trade places, with the U.K. rising from 9th to 8th place by 2022, with a GDP figure of $3.39T.
  • Economists believe the coronavirus pandemic will slow the growth of the global economy, in some cases reversing the rise of underdeveloped countries.

We found the figures for our visualization of the world’s largest economies at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The visual above displays the size of each country’s GDP adjusted to international dollars based on current price figures. Now that the world is emerging from the first full winter of the coronavirus pandemic, our visualization offers a fresh perspective on how the global economy is expected to evolve in this new environment.

Top 10 Biggest Economies in 2020

Country GDP (PPP)
1. China $24.16T
2. United States $20.81T
3. India $8.68T
4. Japan $5.24T
5. Germany $4.45T
6. Russia $4.02T
7. Indonesia $3.33T
8. Brazil $3.08T
9. United Kingdom $2.98T
10. France $2.95T

At a high level, our visual illustrates how there is very little shake up in the ranking of largest economies. The U.K. and Brazil are the only countries expected to trade places, with the U.K. rising from 9th to 8th place with an economy forecasted to grow to $3.39T. This might be a temporary blip, but it reverses the trend of a broad relative decline of Western developed economies in light of the rise of emerging markets. This is clear when you see how China ($28.78T), india ($10.61T) and Indonesia ($3.87T) have seen a relentless rise over the last several decades.

Looking closer at the numbers for the last 3 years, the IMF is clearly projecting a broad slowdown in global economic growth. China’s economic growth is expected to decelerate from 2020-21 to 2021-22 by some $515B. It’s the same story for the U.S. with the economy slowing its projected growth by $68B. In fact, there isn’t a single economy that is projected to grow from 2021 into 2022 at the same pace as 2020 into 2021. This confirms what other international bodies are reporting. The UN expects global growth to reach only 4.7% in 2021, barely erasing the contraction in 2020. The World Bank likewise highlights the threat of lasting damage to global economic output unless there are major investments in long term growth.

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How do you think the coronavirus will affect the economy? Let us know in the comments.

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