Measuring the Health of the Economy

Read this section to understand more about economic growth. Looking at GDP alone does not give much of an indication of the health of an economy. It is the change in GDP that is relevant. If GDP goes up, the economy is growing. This positive movement is what we want as we leave behind the most recent recession. Complete the exercises at the end of the section.

Economic Goals

Economic Growth

One purpose of an economy is to provide people with goods and services – cars, computers, video games, houses, rock concerts, fast food, amusement parks. One way in which economists measure the performance of an economy is by looking at a widely used measure of total output called gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is defined as the market value of all goods and services produced by the economy in a given year. In the United States, it's calculated by the Department of Commerce. GDP includes only those goods and services produced domestically; goods produced outside the country are excluded. GDP also includes only those goods and services that are produced for the final user; intermediate products are excluded. For example, the silicon chip that goes into a computer (an intermediate product) would not count, even though the finished computer would.

By itself, GDP doesn't necessarily tell us much about the state of the economy. But& change in GDP does. If GDP (after adjusting for inflation) goes up, the economy is growing. If it goes down, the economy is contracting.