According to the International Monetary Fund (2019), North America has an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$53,220, making it the second-richest continent in the world, after Oceania. The continent’s economy is largely dominated by the United States (US), Canada, and Mexico.
The United States has the largest economy in North America, as well as the world. The economy of North America has well-defined and structured economic or trade blocs, namely the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Central American Common Market (CACM). However, despite the existence of numerous free trade relations, some countries still have weak economies and suffer from significant levels of unemployment and poverty. The poorest countries in North America by GDP per capita are listed below.
The Five Poorest Countries in North America
Haiti is the poorest country in North America with a per capita GDP of US$856.79. The country's poor economy is the result of political instability, poverty, corruption, a lack of health care, poor infrastructure, and lack of quality education. Additionally, due to high rates of unemployment, many Haitians have been forced to flee their country. In 2010, Haiti ranked 145 out of 182 countries in the United Nations (UN) Human Development Index (HDI), with over half of the population lacking at least three of the index’s poverty measures.
Jamaica is the second-poorest country in North America with a per capita GDP of US$5,393. The country’s economy grew steadily after independence until early 1980, after which it stagnated primarily due to a decrease in the price of bauxite and unsteady prices in the agricultural market. Like most of its Caribbean neighbors, Jamaica’s economy is vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding, climate change, and hurricanes.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a total area of approximately 150 sq mi. The island country is the third poorest country in North America, with a GDP per capita of US$7,490.54 in 2018. The economy is dominated by agriculture, particularly banana production, however this over-dependence on a single crop is the country’s biggest obstacle for development. The islands are also vulnerable to storms and other natural disasters.
The Dominican Republic had a GDP per capita of US$7,880.55 in 2018, ranking as North America’s fourth-poorest country. With an area of approximately 18,792 sq mi, the Dominican Republic is the Caribbean’s second-largest nation, after Cuba. However, despite being one of the poorest countries in North America, it is among the richest in the Caribbean. It also has one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas, and has the second-largest gold mine in the world.
Saint Lucia is categorized by the United Nations as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), with its service industry accounting for about 83% of the country's GDP. However, with a GDP per capita of US$10,610.27, the country ranks as the fifth-poorest in North America. Its economy primarily relies on bananas and revenue generated from tourism. Although Saint Lucia has been dependent on the banana crop for development since the 1960s, the industry is now threatened by competition from other Latin America banana producers.
What Is GDP Per Capita?
Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is a measure of the economic output of a country that accounts for its population. It is the country’s GDP divided by its total population. GDP per capita is considered a good measurement of the standard of living in a country, and is an indicator of the average prosperity of its citizens.