THE map of the world's wealth and health has shown some tectonic shifts in the past decade or so.
While the United States slowly moves further from the top of the world's highest-income countries, the developing world is dividing into two groups. One group, concentrated in Southeast Asia, is still poor but advancing fast. Another group, concentrated in Africa, has lost ground.
The World Bank recently released its 25th annual atlas of world economic and social development. This is the view of the world from 18th Street in Washington, D.C., where the World Bank sits across from the International Monetary Fund to form a canyon of big-think economic development planning.
The view is not altogether bleak. Some of the world's chronically poor countries, such as India and China, have developed pockets of turbo-charged growth. The economies of those two countries, the world's most populous with nearly 2 billion people between them, grew at an annual rate of 5.6 percent between 1980 and 1991. That was more than twice the growth rate of the industrialized countries.
The greatest success story of the 1980s was South Korea, with a 10 percent annual growth rate. Lately, some Latin American countries, led by Mexico and Chile, are coming on strong.
Some of the big losers since the early 1980s have been the oil-exporting states, former sultans of the global economy, whose incomes have dropped with the price of oil. The national income per person in Saudi Arabia, for example, fell in 1990 to less than half its 1982 level. Factoring in inflation would show a more more dramatic drop.
More troubling, however, are the declining incomes among the very poor countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In Madagascar, the gross national income per person has dropped 2.4 percent a year since 1980, reaching a level of $70 per person in 1991. Ethiopians produced $120 per person in 1991, mainland Tanzanians $100 per person.
The US economy produced $22,560 for each member of its population in 1991. That put the US in 10th place worldwide for per capita income.
The leaders were the Swiss, with $33,510 per person. Following them, and ahead of the US, were Luxembourg, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the former West Germany, and Iceland.
The highest growth in population through the 1980s was in the oil-producing Gulf states. Qatar, with both a high fertility rate and a high life expectancy, grew at a 4.7 percent rate compared with 0.9 percent growth in the United States.
The number of women in the work force today has reached 47 percent in countries as different as Vietnam and Finland. The US percentage is 41.
The world's heaviest eaters are the Greeks, who average 3,825 calories a day. Americans take in 3,671. Ethiopians average 1,667, a few hundred less than Somalis - at least as of 1989.
The fertility rate in Ethiopia, where women average 7.5 births each, is surpassed only in Yemen with 7.7.
The biggest energy-wasters are the Romanians, who produce 40 cents worth of goods with a kilogram of oil equivalent. Many Eastern European countries do only slightly better. The US, by comparison, produces $2.80 worth of goods with the same energy. Japan produces $6.70 and Switzerland $8.60.
Each American consumes more than twice the energy of the Japanese or the Swiss. Only a few oil-exporting countries, including Canada and Norway, outconsume the US in energy.