UC Atlas of Global Inequality
UC Atlas Home > Glossary

Atlas: A collection of maps. The name is derived from frontispiece of early atlases, including that of Mercator in 1636, showing the god Atlas supporting the world. Maps show spatial distribution. Global maps influence people’s image of the world. In the latter half of C20th Atlases began to be widely used to present social, historical and economic data as well as geographic data. Notable examples include The New State of the World Atlas, The World Bank Atlas, Third World Atlas. See Bibliography for details.

Commodity: A good or a service that is exchanged for money. The origin of the term is wider, arising from the idea of a convenience or accommodation.

Communicable disease: A disease that is contagious and which can be transmitted from one source to another by infectious bacteria
or viral organisms. Examples include AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis, polio, malaria and measles. For some diseases, immunization is an effective way to prevent the spread of the disease. [See also Non-communicable diseases]

Developing vs. developed countries: Terms used, particularly by international and governmental agencies, to distinguish poor or non-industrialized countries (developing) from rich, industrialized countries (developed). This is one of a series of paired categories used to make sense of aspects of global inequality. Perhaps the most ubiquitous is the pair originating in Cold War conditions: First World, Third World. In this Atlas, we prefer to use the more precise terms industrialized world, meaning First World, and non-industrialized world, meaning poor countries. [See also Industrialization].

East Asian miracles: Rapid industrialization after the Second World War in East Asia. Initially, four East Asian ‘Tigers’ were identified: South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The group has since been expanded, particularly in the World Bank 1993 study The East Asian Miracle to include other East Asian countries (Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand).

Foreign direct investment (FDI): is money invested in production by a foreigner rewarded with part-ownership (stocks) of production. For example, a foreign corporation may finance a factory in return for stock certificates, giving a share of the profits from production and some voting rights in the enterprise management. The World Bank defines FDI as ‘net inflows of investment to acquire a lasting management interest (10 percent or more of voting stock) in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor’.

Globalization, global integration: ‘…a widening, deepening and speeding up of interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual’ (Held and McGrew 1999: 2). Several dimensions of globalization can usefully be identified. These dimensions can often be analyzed separately even though they may have powerful interconnections. Economic globalization means the greater global connectedness of economic activities, through transnational trade, capital flows and migration. Environmental globalization could include the increasingly global effects of human activity on the environment. Cultural globalization may highlight the connections among languages, ways of living, and fears of global homogeneity through the spread of North American and European languages and culture. Political globalization may include wider acceptance of global political standards such as human rights, democracy, labor standards, environmental standards, as well as the greater coordination of actions by governments and other institutions across the globe.

GNP per capita: The gross national product (see below) divided by the population. This is a measure of the productive capacity of the workers in an economy, but is sometimes used as a rough estimate of average income per person.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): The total monetary value of all goods and services produced domestically by a country. It includes income earned domestically by foreigners, but does not include income earned by domestic residents on foreign ground.

Gross National Product (GNP): Total monetary value of goods and services produced in a year by the nationals, or residents, of a country. It includes income that nationals earn abroad, but does not include income earned within a country by foreigners.

Income: That which comes in as the periodical produce of one's work, business, lands, or investments, commonly expressed in terms of money (OED). Many households, particularly in the non-industrialized world, have multiple sources of diverse incomes, including firewood gathered from common lands, food grown in a kitchen garden, and work payments in money and goods. This may make estimation of income as a sum of money misleading.

Income ratio (original to this Atlas): The ratio of GNP/capita of a country to some baseline. In this Atlas we use as baselines the unweighted mean GNP/capita for the world, or the unweighted mean GNP/capita of the industrialized countries (OECD). GNP/capita is only a crude measure of average income in a country most notably because the distribution of income within a country is never equal. Nevertheless, the inequality between countries is so large that this factor can be ignored for many purpose.

Industrialization: the process through which industrial capacity [see also Industry] is created. And this process is given prominence for at least two reasons. Firstly, historians use the industrial revolution as the starting point of modern history. Secondly, the increased productivity, and increased range, of goods and services arising from industrialization bring the potential for higher living standards, although who will benefit from the expansion of industry is a key question to be asked in any particular case. Industrialized countries are then those that have achieved higher productivity and higher living standards.

Industry: There are three ways of identifying industry or industrial production:

  1. Not agriculture, that is, not production directly from the land;
  2. Mining, Manufacturing and Energy sectors of production;
  3. A ‘way of organizing production that assumes there is a constant process of technical and social change which continually increases society’s capacity to produce a wide range of goods’ (Hewitt et al. 1992: 3-6, quoted in Kiely 1998: 3).

Inequality: State or condition of being unequal. Amartya Sen argues that virtually all political philosophies ‘want equality of something — something that has an important place in the particular theory’ (Sen 1992: ix). Libertarians want equal rights; others demand equal welfare or incomes. Inequalities are commonly used to construct images of the world. Two types of inequality are noted in this atlas: i) international inequality, that is inequality between nations, commonly measured by comparing GNP/capita; ii) national inequality, meaning differences between rich and poor within one country.

Infant Mortality Rate : the number of infants who die before reaching 1 year of age. It is generally expressed as deaths per 1000 live births. The World Bank notes ‘Age-specific mortality data such as infant and child mortality, along with life expectancy at birth, are probably the best general indicators of a community’s current health status and are often cited as overall measures of a population’s welfare or quality of life’ (WDR 2000: 319).

Liberalization: The removal by a government of restrictions placed upon the import of goods, the movement of capital, etc.

Life expectancy at birth: The number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life. First use 1877 (OED).

Nationalization: The action of bringing land, property and industries under the control of the nation.

Maternal conditions: Health issues due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, which can result in death of the mother. They include severe bleeding, infections, unsafe abortions, hypertension, and obstructed labor. More than 90% of maternal deaths occur in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and most of them could be prevented at low cost. [See also Perinatal conditions ]

Nations as a unit of analysis: Global maps in this Atlas generally use national data. The data collection capacities of governments make the nation the most straightforward unit for analyzing global change even as territorial divisions may be losing salience. Historian Benedict Anderson (1983) famously termed nations ‘imagined communities’ to emphasize that community may be more imagined than experienced. Data aggregated at national level overlook many differences, most obviously divisions along lines of wealth, ethnicity, gender and place.

Non-communicable diseases are ones which are not contagious, such as heart disease and cancer. [See also Communicable diseases]

Non-governmental organization (NGO): This is a widely used term for various organizations that are not part of government, particularly those focusing on development, environment and human rights. The term is not usually used for corporate enterprise, nor for religious institutions. The term is unsatisfactory both because the diversity of the organizations it could signify is wide, and because the category is defined by what those organizations are not, government, rather than by what they are.

OECD: Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an association of the industrialized nation governments.

Openness: the quality or condition of being open, or unenclosed. In international economic terms, openness is portrayed as the alternative to protectionism. Being open to the world economy means having no barriers to international trade, finance and investment. The term includes a set of international flows, some of which, notably finance and capital flows, are controversial, and omits others, notably migration.

Perinatal conditions: Diseases and illnesses that occur during the period closely surrounding birth. Deaths in newborns during the first week of life are largely the result of poor maternal health and nutrition, inadequate care during pregnancy and delivery, lack of essential care for the newborn baby, infections, birth injury, asphyxia, and problems relating to premature births. [See also Maternal conditions ]

Poverty: The Oxford English Dictionary defines poverty as: ‘The condition of having little or no wealth or material possessions; indigence, destitution, want’, and suggests its first use was in AD 1075. In recent years, research tapping the perspectives of poor people has recognized that poverty involves a wider set of deprivations, including vulnerability and exclusion from society, in addition to material destitution.

Poverty line: A level of income below which people are deemed poor. A global poverty line of $1 per person per day was suggested in 1990 (World Bank 1990). This line facilitates comparison of how many poor people there are in different countries. But, it is only a crude estimate because the line does not recognize differences in the buying power of money in different countries, and, more significantly, because it does not recognize other aspects of poverty than the material, or income poverty.

Privatization: The process of making state-owned enterprises private. Also termed denationalization.

Productivity: The rate of output per unit of input. The most common international comparison of productivity is that of labor — how much of a product a person can make in a unit of time. For example, the labor productivity of farmer might be measured in tons of grain produced per year.

Projections: Different ways of projecting the surface of the globe onto a flat screen or sheet of paper are called projections. The choice of a projection can influence how the world is perceived. Most of the maps shown in this first phase of the Atlas of Global Inequality use the Peters Projection. This is an equal area projection, meaning that it shows the size of different areas of the world relatively evenly. But this projection does not portray shape and direction accurately. See the page of Map Projections for more information.

Protectionism : Government policies fostering home industries by protecting them from the competition of foreign goods, the importation of these being checked or discouraged by the imposition of duties (tariffs) or otherwise.

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP): . To compare economic statistics across countries, the data must first be converted into a common currency. Unlike conventional exchange rates, PPP rates of exchange allow this conversion to take account of price differences between countries. Recently purchasing power parity exchange rates have been calculated comparing the cost of a common basket of commodities in every country. By eliminating differences in national price levels, the method facilitates comparisons of real values for income, poverty, inequality and expenditure patterns.

Telecommunication: Communication over long distances, especially by electrical means such as by telephone, radio, satellite, television and the internet.

Third World: Phrase used originally to distinguish those countries that were aligned neither with the capitalist West, the First World, nor with the socialist East, the Second World. It remains widely used to describe non-industrialized, ex-colonial, or developing countries despite the collapse of the Second World. [See also Developing].

Value added: The amount by which the value of an article is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of the cost of materials and bought-in parts and services. It is a way of giving a monetary value to each stage of a chain of production activities. The term is also used for ‘value added tax’ (VAT), a tax levied on the value added to an article ` `at each stage during its production or distribution.

World Bank: The World Bank is one of the institutions established at a meeting in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, towards the end of World War II. The other important institution established at that meeting is the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Bank provides finance for development projects and advice to governments about development questions. Both the Bank’s projects and the advice it provides have gone through distinct phases, associated with changes in global politics and in ideas about development. In the latest phase, the Bank proclaims ‘Our dream is a world free of poverty’ (World Bank 2002). The advice that the Bank has provided has usually been based on a conservative reading of mainstream economic ideas.


Sen, A. (1992). Inequality Re-examined. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Kidron, M and Segal, R (1995). The State of the World Atlas. London: Penguin.

Milanovic, B. (1999). True world income distribution, 1988 and 1993: First calculation based on household surveys alone, World Bank.

Thomas, A and Crow, B (1994) Third World Atlas (2nd ed.). Open University Press.

World Bank (various years). The World Bank Atlas. Washington, DC: World Bank.

World Bank (2000) World Development Report 2000-1: Attacking Poverty Oxford University Press and World Bank.

Hewitt, T., H. Johnson and D. Wield. (eds.) (1992). Industrialization and Development. Oxford, OUP.

Kiely, R. (1998). Industrialization and development : a comparative analysis. London, Bristol, Pa., UCL Press.

World Bank (2002). June 20 2002.

Home | Health | Income Inequality | Economic Globalization | Inequality & Growth | Connectedness

Contact Us

Last Updated 3/13/03