America’s economic position in the world

Date posted: April 13, 2012

It’s commonly thought that our country’s position in the world has slipped in recent decades. What kinds of measures can we use to judge this? And what do those measures indicate? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden answers.

“Well … , what we would use would be to look out of all the economic activity in the world, what percent of that is coming from the U.S. Or in fact, if you were in Great Britain or France, you would obviously do that from the perspective of that country.

“Technically what we’re doing here is looking at the U.S.’s contribution to what we call world GDP — our gross domestic product. And, again, I think the common thought would be for people who are busy and they don’t have time to look up these statistics … , ‘Well, it’s got to have gone down.’ — that with so many other countries growing and expanding faster than the U.S. … that thought would be that the U.S.’s contribution to world GDP has gone down.

“And actually … the statistics say, No, that’s not the case. In fact, the contribution of the U.S. economy to total world production has stayed remarkably stable for about 40 years. For example, in 1969, it was 28 percent. In ’79 and ’89 it was 27 percent. In 1999, it was back to 28 percent. In 2009, the latest year we have available, it’s 27 percent.

“Now clearly, other countries though have experienced a shift. For example, Europe’s contribution world GDP has gone down from 35 percent in 1969 to 28 percent in 2009. Asia’s has gone up from 13 percent to 25 percent over that same time period. But the U.S.: remarkably stable in terms of how our economy contributes to the world economy.”

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