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Keywords:

  • catch-up;
  • colonialism;
  • divergence;
  • institutional;
  • intellectual and proximate causality;
  • per capita GDP;
  • projection

This paper analyses the forces determining per capita income levels of nations over the past millennium and the prospects to 2030. In the year 1000, Asian countries were in the lead. By 1820, per capita gross domestic product in Western Europe and the USA was twice the Asian average. The divergence had grown much bigger by 1950, but by the 1970s, several Asian countries – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore – had achieved considerable catch-up. Since then, there has been a major surge in China and the beginning of a similar phenomenon in India. As a result, the Asian share of world income has risen steadily and, by 2030, will be fairly close to what it was in 1820. I conclude by comparing my projections for 2030 with those of Goldman Sachs, Perkins and Rawski, and Fogel.