• This data sheet also in French and Spanish.

(May 2004) Despite improvements in public health in the last half-century, large disparities in health exist between and within countries. Differences among socioeconomic groups can be pronounced, but are easily masked by national data that are used for monitoring and reporting progress. A recent analysis of data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program provides clear evidence of the gap between rich and poor in a range of health and population indicators—fertility, infant and child mortality, nutrition, and the use of family planning and other health services.

This chart shows selected indicators from this study for 53 developing countries. These data shed new light on how the poorest women and children are faring, compared with their better-off counterparts. The rankings within each country are relative: The “poorest” and “richest” groups are based on a wealth index for each country and do not reflect absolute levels of wealth or income. In many countries, the vast majority is still poor by international standards. Still, the data highlight the particular disadvantages faced by those at the bottom of the economic scale.