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National Income vs. Per Capita Income: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 10, 2023
National income is the total value of a nation's goods and services in a year, while per capita income is the average income per person in a nation.

Key Differences

National income reflects the total economic output of a nation, including wages, profits, and taxes minus subsidies. Per capita income, however, divides this total income by the population to gauge the average income of an individual.
The national income is a macroeconomic indicator, measuring a country's economic strength and growth. Per capita income provides insight into the standard of living and economic well-being of the average citizen.
In calculating national income, all sources of income are considered, emphasizing a country's overall economic activity. Per capita income, by averaging individual incomes, can sometimes mask income disparities within a population.
National income is crucial for government policy and international comparisons of economic power. In contrast, per capita income is often used to compare the wealth and quality of life between countries or regions.
An increase in national income indicates economic growth, but it doesn't always mean improved living standards, which is where per capita income becomes a more relevant metric.

Comparison Chart


Total economic output of a nation.
Average income earned per person in a nation.

Measurement Focus

Overall economic activity and growth of a nation.
Economic well-being and standard of living.


Macro-level economic indicator.
Micro-level, individual-centered indicator.

Usage in Policy and Analysis

Used for assessing national economic health.
Used to gauge individual wealth and disparities.

Relation to Population

Independent of population size.
Directly related to population size.

National Income and Per Capita Income Definitions

National Income

Annual total earnings of a country's residents.
The government used national income data to plan its budget.

Per Capita Income

National income divided by the population size.
An increase in per capita income indicates rising living standards.

National Income

Gross domestic product plus net income from foreign investments.
National income takes into account both domestic and international earnings.

Per Capita Income

Measure of the average income earned per person.
Despite high national income, the per capita income remained low.

National Income

Economic measure of a nation's total financial output.
Analysts studied national income trends to forecast economic stability.

Per Capita Income

Indicator of average economic well-being of individuals.
Economists use per capita income to assess economic equality.

National Income

Total value of goods and services produced by a nation.
The national income increased by 5% last year, indicating economic growth.

Per Capita Income

Economic statistic reflecting individual income levels.
The city's high per capita income attracted more investments.

National Income

Sum of all wages, profits, and rents in a country.
A rise in national income can suggest improved job markets.

Per Capita Income

Average income per person in a specific area.
The per capita income of the region was higher than the national average.


Is national income the same as GDP?

Nearly, but national income also includes net income from abroad.

How often are national income and per capita income calculated?

Typically annually.

Are national income and per capita income directly correlated?

Not necessarily, as per capita income depends on both national income and population size.

What factors can inflate national income?

High levels of production and exports can inflate it.

Can a country have high national income but low per capita income?

Yes, if the population is large, the per capita income can be low despite high national income.

Does per capita income accurately reflect wealth distribution?

Not always, as it averages income and can mask disparities.

Does a high per capita income always mean a high standard of living?

Generally, but it doesn't account for cost of living differences.

What does a rapid increase in per capita income indicate?

It often indicates economic development and improved living standards.

Does per capita income consider income inequality?

It doesn't directly address inequality.

Do all countries measure national income the same way?

Mostly, but methodologies can vary slightly.

Is national income a good indicator of economic power?

Yes, it's often used to assess a country's economic strength.

Do national income and per capita income include non-monetary income?

They usually focus on monetary income.

Can national income be negative?

No, it represents total economic output, which can't be negative.

Can a small country have a high per capita income?

Yes, especially if it has a small population and high economic output.

Are national income and per capita income useful for economic planning?

Yes, both are key indicators for economic policy and planning.

Can per capita income be used for global comparisons?

Yes, it's commonly used to compare living standards between countries.

Can per capita income be misleading in diverse economies?

Yes, especially in economies with significant income disparities.

Can national income decrease while per capita income increases?

Yes, if the population decreases faster than the decline in national income.

Is national income affected by currency value?

Yes, it's influenced by exchange rates and inflation.

What does a decline in national income suggest?

It can suggest economic recession or downturn.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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