Why You Shouldn’t Believe Those G.D.P. Numbers
The statistics keep on rising, but they don’t track the well-being of most Americans.
By David Leonhardt/ New York Times/ December 15, 2019
The Commerce Department will announce the latest G.D.P. numbers on Friday, and they’ll probably be solid. The economy seems to be growing at an annual rate of about 2 percent, which isn’t bad for the 11th year of an expansion.
After the numbers come out, something else will probably happen: Pundits will once again express bafflement about the apparent disconnect between the healthy American economy and the sour national mood.
But there is really no disconnect. The fault — with apologies to Shakespeare — is in our stats, not ourselves.
Americans are dissatisfied, and have been for years, largely because the economy as most people experience it has not been booming. G.D.P. — or gross domestic product, the economy’s total output — keeps on rising, but it no longer tracks the well-being of most Americans. Instead, an outsize share of economic growth flows to the wealthy. And yet G.D.P. is treated as a totemic measure of the country’s prosperity.