Illustration 4: Rich and poor

Curriculum overview

The Australian Curriculum: Geography content description addressed in the illustration is:

  • The reasons for spatial variations between countries in selected indicators of human wellbeing

Learning goals

Students learn about the components of population growth that influence the development of several countries around the world. They look at the terminology, definitions and measures of wellbeing created by various agencies on a global scale.

The illustration-specific learning goals are:

  • analysing a range of statistics and data used to measure human wellbeing
  • identifying and defining rich and poor countries based on a range of criteria
  • observing the characteristics and defining features of rich and poor countries
  • understanding the terms 'less developed' and 'more developed' (countries) and the criteria often used to determine this status
  • describing some of the features of rich and poor countries.

Geographical understanding and context

There are many ways in which the wealth and development of nations are measured by various agencies around the world. The focus of this unit of study is to look at some of the measures of wealth, and how these impact on the population growth and wellbeing of nations. This is an introductory illustration examining the possible indicators of wealth and development features of a range of rich and poor countries.

Teaching approaches

In this illustration we focus on an examination of a range of data and statistics (gathered from a variety of agencies) which look at death rates, birthrates, infant mortality rates, life expectancy and other measures of wellbeing and wealth.

These statistics are readily available from several readily available sources, for example:

  • Population Reference Bureau provides information about the world's population in a variety of forms, and it is worth exploring this website to access up-to-date data and other information.
  • World population data sheet  (on the Population Reference Bureau website) provides a wealth of information and is updated annually. You can download a pdf of the data sheet from this page.
  • DataFinder (on the Population Reference Bureau website) could be used to examine a range of indicators, and to draw charts, graphs and tables.
  • United States Census Bureau is an international data website which contains a great deal of information. Tables and charts can also be created.
  • Human Development Index can also be used to look at a range of indicators of wellbeing.

Some suggested activities are provided below.

  • Examining a range of indicators

Divide your class into groups to study available data on rich and poor. You should use Population inquiry: Data interpretation and discussion (PDF) to examine a variety of possible indicators of economic wellbeing for a range of countries. Some class discussion should occur around the definitions of the terms used. There is a glossary of these terms published in the 2012 World population data sheet which you can download from the Population Reference Bureau website. Try and establish with the groups what would be the best indicators of wellbeing and why.

  • Developing a presentation

Ask students to collect and collate data from the range of indicators, choosing several rich and several poor countries to highlight the variations. Each group presents their findings to the rest of the class. PowerPoint, Keynote or other presentation formats could be used to illustrate the differences between countries.

  • Understanding and applying terminology

Various terms like 'rich' and 'poor', 'first world' and 'third world', 'more developed' and 'less developed', 'north' and ‘south', 'developed' and 'developing' have, over time, been used to describe nations' levels of development. 
Students could research the meanings of these terms and then try to interpret and classify their chosen countries accordingly.

What you need

Access to the Internet.
DataFinder (on the Population Reference Bureau website).
Human Development Index.
Population inquiry: Data interpretation and discussion (PDF).
Population Reference Bureau website.
United States Census Bureau website.
World population data sheet (on the Population Reference Bureau website).

Curriculum connections

This illustration links with the content descriptions of the following Phase 1 Australian Curriculum.


  • Use a range of software, including word processing programs, confidently, flexibly and imaginatively to create, edit and publish texts, considering the identified purpose and the characteristics of the user
  • Evaluate the social, moral and ethical positions represented in texts


  • Analyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables and identifying inconsistencies
  • Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems


  • The waves of post-World War II migration to Australia, including the influence of significant world events
  • The impact of at least ONE world event or development and its significance for Australia, such as the Vietnam War and Indochinese refugees
  • The contribution of migration to Australia's changing identity as a nation and to its international relationships