In order to determine the stratification or ranking of a country, economists created various models of global stratification. All of these models have one thing in common: they rank countries according to their economic status, often ranked by gross national product (GNP). The GNP is the value of goods and services produced by a nation’s citizens both within its boarders and abroad.
Another system of global classification defines countries based on the gross domestic product (GDP), a country’s national wealth. The GDP calculated annually either totals the income of all people living within its borders or the value of all goods and services produced in the country during the year. It also includes government spending. Because the GDP indicates a country’s productivity and performance, comparing GDP rates helps establish a country’s economic health in relation to other countries, with some countries rising to the top and others falling to the bottom. The chapter on Work and the Economy (specifically the section on Globalization and the Economy) shows the differences in GDP among various countries.
Traditional models, now considered outdated, used labels, such as “first world”, “second world,” and “third world” to describe the stratification of the different areas of the world. First and second world described industrialized nations, while third world referred to “undeveloped” countries. When researching existing historical sources, you may still encounter these terms, and even today people still refer to some nations as the “third world.” This model, however, is outdated because it lumps countries together that are quite different in terms of wealth, power, prestige, and economic stability.
Another model separates countries into two groups: more developed and less developed. More-developed nations have higher wealth, such as Canada, Japan, and Australia. Less-developed nations have less wealth to distribute among populations, including many countries in central Africa, South America, and some island nations.