Finding ways to improve humanity’s living standards is the point of economics. Having a good measure of living standards, you may think, is therefore pretty fundamental to the discipline. For decades economists have turned to gross domestic product (GDP) when they want an estimate of how well off people are. By how much are Americans better off than Indians, or than their parents’ generation? Chances are the answer will start with GDP.
GDP is really a measure of an economy’s output, valued at market prices (to the extent that you have them). As societies produce more, and therefore earn more, their material well-being rises. So it is no surprise that so many economists and official statisticians broadly accept GDP as a measure of living standards.
Do you think GDP is the best measure of living standard? Why? Why not?
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