Skip to main content

oneill60_getty images_graphic Getty Images

The Future of Economic Growth

Given the failures to foresee the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent weak recovery, it is easy to think that economists have little to offer in the way of predictions. But when it comes to national-level GDP growth, past projections have largely been borne out; even when wrong, they can be used to diagnose structural problems.

MANCHESTER – Last month, I wrote about the growing divide between economic theory and real-world economic conditions, and reminded readers that economics is still a social science, despite whatever loftier ambitions its practitioners may have. Nonetheless, when it comes to the specific question of what drives economic growth in the long term, one can still offer rigorous predictions by focusing on just two forces.

Specifically, if one knows how much a country’s working-age population will grow (or shrink), and how much its productivity will increase, one can predict its future growth with considerable confidence. The first variable is reasonably predictable from a country’s retirement and death rates; the second is more uncertain. Indeed, the reported slowdown in productivity across advanced economies since 2008 is widely regarded as an economic mystery.

Is it really a mystery, though? Consider the following table, which shows GDP growth since the 1980s for the larger economies, the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and the “Next Eleven” (N-11) most populous developing countries.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/4SDhuqt;
  1. mallochbrown10_ANDREW MILLIGANAFPGetty Images_boris johnson cow Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Brexit House of Cards

    Mark Malloch-Brown

    Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament, and an appeals court ruling declaring that act unlawful, the United Kingdom finds itself in a state of political frenzy. With rational decision-making having become all but impossible, any new political agreement that emerges is likely to be both temporary and deeply flawed.

    0
  2. sufi2_getty Images_graph Getty Images

    Could Ultra-Low Interest Rates Be Contractionary?

    Ernest Liu, et al.

    Although low interest rates have traditionally been viewed as positive for economic growth because they encourage businesses to invest in enhancing productivity, this may not be the case. Instead, Ernest Liu, Amir Sufi, and Atif Mian contend, extremely low rates may lead to slower growth by increasing market concentration and thus weakening firms' incentive to boost productivity.

    4

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions