Rapid growth in the developing world is also pulling jobs and investment from the United States and other rich countries. And it's fanning international disputes over trade and currencies.
The AP Global Economy Tracker found that:
— The fastest-growing countries — China, India, Indonesia — are all in the developing world. The slowest are all European: Spain, Italy and Britain. The United States ranks 12th among the 20 largest economies plus Argentina and South Africa.
— Speedy growth is triggering inflation in emerging countries. The countries where consumer prices rose the most last year were Argentina, India and Russia.
— High unemployment is plaguing rich countries. At the end of 2010, unemployment was more than 20 percent in Spain, 9.6 percent in the European Union as a whole and 9.4 percent in the United States. (The U.S. rate fell to 9 percent in January and 8.9 percent in February). In contrast, the unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in Brazil.
In the past, the developing world depended on advanced economies — particularly the United States — to generate global growth, which trickled down to them when the rich countries bought their exports. And when rich countries faltered, poorer ones suffered too.
"The conventional wisdom was when we went into recession, they went into recession," says Robert Lawrence, professor of trade policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
The Great Recession overturned the old relationship. Emerging economies dodged the housing crisis that froze credit markets in the United States and Europe and threw the rich world into the worst downturn since the 1930s. Developing countries just kept growing, though more slowly.
They never had to bail out their banks or endure the high unemployment and stagnant growth that historically follow financial crises. India's heavily regulated banks never made disastrous bets on the U.S. subprime mortgage market.
Neither did China's, which are almost all owned by the government. As fear paralyzed financial markets in the rich world, Beijing simply ordered state-run banks to keep lending to support the Chinese economy. And they did, unleashing more than $1.4 trillion in new loans in 2009 alone — a year when bank lending fell in the United States.