Charles R. Hulten, Leonard Nakamura, 02 June 2017

Conventional growth theory characterises innovation as ‘resource-saving’, in the sense that it allows the same output to be produced with fewer resources. This column introduces a sources-of-welfare growth model that also includes a measure of ‘output-saving’ innovation, which arises from the expanded scope and efficiency in consumer choice recently brought about by the Internet economy and smartphones. The findings highlight how various new kinds of intangible capital complicate the measurement of GDP.

Charles Goodhart, Jonathan Ashworth, 08 October 2014

Despite the growth of online and card payments, the ratio of currency to GDP in the UK has been rising. This column argues that rapid growth in the grey economy has been a key cause. The authors estimate that the grey economy in the UK could have expanded by around 3% of UK GDP since the beginning of the Global Crisis.

Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 27 September 2014

As demonstrated by the dramatic upward revision of Nigeria’s GDP for 2013, the choice of a benchmark year matters when computing GDP statistics. This column explains how the replacement of benchmark years creates an inconsistency between new and old national accounts series, and how different ways of resolving this inconsistency yield very different estimates of historical GDP levels and growth rates. When used to evaluate the relative historical performance of Spain and France, the interpolation procedure for splicing national accounts produces more plausible results than the conventional ‘retropolation’ approach.

Timothy Bond, Kevin Lang, 04 July 2014

Self-reported measures of happiness are growing in popularity as alternatives to GDP. This column presents a novel statistical critique of the validity of comparing such measures across groups. Since monotonic transformations of individuals’ happiness levels can reverse average happiness rankings between countries, no meaningful comparison can be made without assumptions on the distribution of happiness.

Diane Coyle, 09 June 2014

As a measure of economic activity, GDP is imperfect, but no more so than any single indicator of the whole economy. Yet public policy debate about the economy is often focused on GDP growth to the exclusion of other important considerations. This Vox Talk argues the case for a ‘dashboard’ of alternative indicators that, in addition to measuring economic activity, could also capture social welfare, sustainability and the benefits of innovation.

Diane Coyle, 17 February 2014

Criticism of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an indicator of the health of the economy has grown in recent years, in part because of a new focus on measures of subjective well-being or ‘happiness’. This column argues that the debate needs to distinguish between the different purposes of measurement: economic activity, social welfare, and sustainability are distinct concepts and cannot be captured by a single indicator. There are good arguments for paying less attention to GDP and more to indicators of welfare and sustainability, but it would be a mistake to adjust or replace GDP.