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Which came first: an economy on life support or limited opportunity for individuals? Each of our top five poorest countries has grappled with this problem for years. All have stagnated as agriculture-based societies that, unlike more advanced nations, haven't experienced an industrial revolution to increase its gross domestic product, a standard measurement of a country's total economic output. "Opportunity" may be a longer word than "poor," but without it, citizens of the world's least affluent countries face a long road to financial well-being. Of the many ways to measure national poverty, the one used here, GDP at purchasing power parity, more closely presents a picture of the standard of living. GDP PPP converts the cost of goods in a country into U.S. dollars for apples-to-apples comparisons.