Low-income countries are also referred to as developing nations, or least-developed countries. There are many opinions on what characterizes a low-income country, although there is no official ruling by any governmental body on what these characteristics are. There are some generally accepted factors that contribute to a country being considered less developed than others.

World Bank Classification

The World Bank's primary function is to assist developing countries by providing loans and technical assistance. For a country to be considered low income, the gross national income per person must not be above $995 as of 2009. Examples of low-income countries are Afghanistan, Eritrea and Rwanda.

Economic Indicators

According to the World Bank, there are more than 400 economic indicators that are used to analyze a country's economic status. In general, the lower the percentage or number of an economic indicator, the less developed or lower income a country is. These indicators include agricultural land as a percentage of land area, cash surplus/deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) and children out of school.

Intrinsic Characteristics

Intrinsic factors include attitudes and aptitudes that are used as justification for the low-income status. These attitudes and aptitudes can be real or imagined and are hardly measurable. These affect the production of a country, its GDP and the efficient use of its resources. For example, the United States' "Can Do!" attitude is an intrinsic reason for its developed-nation status because over time that attitude has promoted innovation and increased the country's productivity. A low-income country will have attitudes that are considered less favorable, such as those that promote inequality between the sexes and that reduce productivity and innovation. For example, India's caste system, which for centuries relegated certain people to certain types of labor, was a factor in the nation's less-developed designation.

Extrinsic Characteristics

Extrinsic characteristics are beyond the average civilian's control. These include the status of legal structures and institutions. For many decades, governments in various African countries have been rife with corruption and greed. Rather than focusing on infrastructure, politicians worked on making money for themselves. Countries in Africa are not alone in confronting this problem, as it is common in low-income nations worldwide.