This chapter analyzes economic growth by examining the aggregate production function. Sources of economic growth are identified and growth rates of different countries are compared.
Determinants of Economic Growth
The Sources of Economic Growth
As we have learned, there are two ways to model economic growth: (1) as an outward shift in an economy's production possibilities curve, and (2) as a shift to the right in its long-run aggregate supply curve. In drawing either one at a point in time, we assume that the economy's factors of production and its technology are unchanged. Changing these will shift both curves. Therefore, anything that increases the quantity or quality of factors of production or that improves the technology available to the economy contributes to economic growth.
The sources of growth for the U.S. economy in the 20th century were presented in the chapter on choices in production. There we learned that the main sources of growth for the United States from 1960 to 2007 were divided between increases in the quantities of labor and of physical capital (about 65%) and in improvements in the qualities of the factors of production and technology (about 35%). Since 2000, however, the contributions from improvements in factor quality and technology have accounted for about half the economic growth in the United States.
In order to devote resources to increasing physical and human capital and to improving technology - activities that will enhance future production - society must forgo using them now to produce consumer goods. Even though the people in the economy would enjoy a higher standard of living today without this sacrifice, they are willing to reduce present consumption in order to have more goods and services available for the future.
As a college student, you personally made such a choice. You decided to devote time to study that you could have spent earning income. With the higher income, you could enjoy greater consumption today. You made this choice because you expect to earn higher income in the future and thus to enjoy greater consumption in the future. Because many other people in the society also choose to acquire more education, society allocates resources to produce education. The education produced today will enhance the society's human capital and thus its economic growth.
All other things equal, higher saving allows more resources to be devoted to increases in physical and human capital and technological improvement. In other words, saving, which is income not spent on consumption, promotes economic growth by making available resources that can be channeled into growth-enhancing uses.