First World Countries List

The theory of the First World discovered during the Cold War and comprised countries that were usually aligned with or on friendly terms with the USA (comprising all NATO countries) and were usually recognized as non-theocratic democracies with mainly market-based economies. While there is no present consensus on an precise definition of the term, in current usage, "First World country" usually includes a stable, relatively wealthy and functional non-theocratic democracy with a logically well educated population, or just any developed country.

About First World Countries Map

Explore map of first world countries to locate the countries belong to first world.

What is the First World Definition?

The First World concept emanated during the era of the Cold War. Usually, the term “first world” refers to a country with alliances with the United States and other western countries to oppose the then Soviet Union and its allies. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, there has been a great evolution of the use of this term.

Nowadays, the term “first world” is usually used to describe an industrialized and developed nation. Some basic parameters of a first-world country are stability in politics, democracy, law, and economy. A high standard of living is also an inherent trait of a first-world country.

Several metrics have been used to explain the notion of first-world nations. From gross domestic product or GDP to a gross national product or GNP and literacy rates, experts rely on various metrics to define first-world countries. The HDI or Human Development Index is also a good indicator of identifying the first-world nations.

First World Classification Criteria

In all first-world countries, some common metrics are political and economic stability, high quality of living, along with a capitalist economy. Here are some of the common metrics that are used to recognize the first-world countries.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The GDP depicts the mean output per person. It is usually derived by dividing the country’s gross domestic product by its population. The data is usually available on the World Bank website.

Note that the per-capita GDP metric depicts the average quality of life and the economic stability of an individual. There is no such cut-off for a nation to be a part of the first world order. However, the higher the per capita GDP, the greater are the possibilities that the country would be a part of the first world order.

The Human Development Index (HDI)

The Human Development Index or HDI is a statistical measure that was introduced by the United Nations to analyze the development of countries encompassing the economic and social spheres. Usually, the HDI comprises three main elements. They are as follows:

The HDI typically lies between the zero levels to one. Note that here zero levels refer to the very low level of human development. Moreover, one here refers to a very high level of human development.

Literacy Rate

The literacy rate indicates the percentage of people aged over 15 and above who are proficient in writing and reading. When the literacy rate is higher, it usually indicates that the country belongs to the first world group.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy refers to the mean age at which a person is expected to live from birth. When there is a higher life expectancy, it indicates that the country has a robust healthcare system. And when there is an improved healthcare system, the country usually belongs to the first world group.

Historical Definition of “First World”

The term “first world” usually arose during the Cold War period. It was used to define nations that were allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, abbreviated as NATO. On the other hand, countries that aligned with the opposition were called “the second world.” The opposition was also known as the Warsaw Pact. The nations which didn’t follow any pact were named the third world.

As per the historical definition, the first world countries referred to Western Europe, United States, along with their allies. The second world nations commonly referred to as the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, along with their partners. The third world countries were in the form of Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the term first world commonly referred to the wealthy nations.

Why is the Term “First World” Problematic

The term first world is problematic as it is outdated. This term first came into being in 1991 during the period of the Cold War. It comprised nations that were allies of the United States. At that time, the first world countries also contained other western nations opposed to countries that aligned with the Soviet Union. The economic indicators based on defining the first world used to vary by perspective. That’s why the term first world can denote a hazy notion of the nation’s economic stature. Let’s cite an example to understand better. Saudi Arabia has a per capita income that is nearly equal to Portugal. But still, it is considered a second world nation.

An Archaic Model

There usually exists a debate that the concept of segregating countries into three worlds usually refers to an obsolete perspective.

After the Cold War ended, the United States has emerged as the world’s only superpower. Moreover, a large number of countries are in the process of adopting a democracy based on the American style. These nations are neither poor nor rich. Their defining structures are the rule of law and democracy. However, it would be illogical to describe them as third world nations. Examples of these types of countries are Brazil and India.

A majority of first-world nations have areas that suffer from poverty. These areas can be compared to poverty-stricken regions of third world countries. For instance, the people living in the rural United States are lacking. On the other hand, certain blocks in prominent and famous cities comprise poor people. For instance, the South Side of Chicago is home to a large number of poor people.

The previous definition of the term first world as a nation that was not an associate of the United States of America has led to affluent countries being known as developing countries. For example, Saudi Arabia, which is affluent in oil reserves and boasts of a higher income in terms of GDP per capita than Turkey, is acknowledged as a developing nation.

First World Countries List 2021

S.N.First World Countries NameCapitalPopulationEst. 2021 GDP (PPP) per Capita - IMFEst. 2021 GDP (PPP) in US$ Million - IMFEst. 2021 GDP (Nominal) per Capita - IMFEst. 2021 Nominal GDP - US$ Million - IMFCurrencyDialing CodeArea (km2)Area (sq mi)
1LuxembourgLuxembourg City634,730$122,740$78,309$131,782$84,077Euro+3522,586998
3SwitzerlandBern / Berne8,680,890$75,880$660,862$94,696$824,734Swiss franc+4141,27715,937
4NorwayOslo5,398,804$69,171$374,994$81,995$444,519Norwegian krone+47323,802125,021
5United StatesWashington, D.C.331,949,938$68,309$22,675,271$68,309$22,675,271United States dollar+19,857,3063,805,927
6DenmarkCopenhagen5,843,347$61,478$359,048$67,218$392,570Danish krone+4543,09416,639
7NetherlandsAmsterdam17,610,981$60,461$1,055,502$58,003$1,012,598Euro, US dollar, NA guilder, Aruban florin+3141,54316,040
8IcelandReykjavík369,870$58,151$21,520$65,273$24,155Icelandic króna+354103,00039,769
11SwedenStockholm10,395,160$55,566$589,751$58,977$625,948Swedish krona+46450,295173,860
12AustraliaCanberra25,824,342$54,891$1,415,564$62,723$1,617,543Australian Dollar+617,741,2202,988,902
13New ZealandWellington5,124,850$54,891$226,566$47,499$243,332New Zealand Dollar+64267,710103,363
15CanadaOttawa38,319,873$51,713$1,978,816$49,222$1,883,487Canadian dollar+19,984,6703,854,085
16FranceParis67,427,000$49,492$3,231,927$44,995$2,938,271Euro, CFP franc+33643,427248,429
17United KingdomLondon67,081,234$47,089$3,174,921$46,344$3,124,650Pound sterling+44243,61094,058
18South KoreaSeoul51,683,025$47,027$2,436,872$34,866$1,806,707South Korean won+82100,21038,691
21IsraelJerusalem (proclaimed)9,366,602$42,570$399,488$47,602$446,708New Shekel+97222,0728,522
24TurkeyAnkara83,614,362$32,278$2,749,570$9,327$794,530Turkish lira+90783,562302,535