How does the World Bank classify countries?

In the World Development Indicators database (and most other time series datasets), all 188 World Bank member countries, plus 26 other economies with populations of more than 30,000, are classified so that data users can aggregate, group, and compare statistical data of interest, and for the presentation of key statistics. The main classifications provided are by geographic region, by income group, and by the operational lending categories of the World Bank Group. These groupings change from time to time: these tables provide those currently in use.

The term country, used interchangeably with economy, does not imply political independence but refers to any territory for which authorities report separate social or economic statistics.

Geographic regions
Groupings are primarily based on the regions used for administrative purposes by the World Bank. There are two main variants: one which includes low- and middle-income economies only, labeled developing only (see income groups below for the definition of low-, middle-, and high-income categories), and one which includes all economies, labeled all income groups.

Please note: the term developing used to denote all low- and middle-income countries in this context does not imply that all economies in the group are experiencing similar levels of development or that other economies have reached a preferred or final stage of development.

Income groups
Economies are currently divided into four income groupings: low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high. Income is measured using gross national income (GNI) per capita, in U.S. dollars, converted from local currency using the World Bank Atlas method. Estimates of GNI are obtained from economists in World Bank country units; and the size of the population is estimated by World Bank demographers from a variety of sources, including the UN’s biennial World Population Prospects.

Countries are immediately reassigned on July 1 each year, based on the estimate of their GNI per capita for the previous calendar year. Income groupings remain fixed for the entire fiscal year (i.e., until July 1 of the following year), even if GNI per capita estimates are revised in the meantime.

Please note: Although the methodology used for adjusting income group thresholds and for estimating the per capita income of countries is consistent with that used as part of the determination of operational lending categories, it is important for users to understand that the income groups are not used by the World Bank in resource allocation decisions.

See “How are the income group thresholds determined?
See “Why use GNI per capita to classify economies into income groupings?

Download an Excel file of historical classifications by income.

Operational lending categories
Economies are divided into IDA, IBRD, and Blend countries based on the operational policies of the World Bank. International Development Association (IDA) countries are those with low per capita incomes that lack the financial ability to borrow from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). Blend countries are eligible for IDA loans but are also eligible for IBRD loans because they are financially creditworthy.

Classification reassignments of operational lending categories may occur at any time, but will only be reflected in World Development Indicators or other databases when those databases are updated.

Other groupings
Other country groupings in World Development Indicators include OECD member countries, countries in the euro area, member states of the European Union, the UN Least Development Countries classification, and the World.

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