Economic growth matters. High growth rates, are important for improving people’s living standards. But what do we know about the history of economic growth?
What was GDP growth in 1,000 BC?
Gross domestic product or GDP is a measure of the size of a country’s economy. When GDP goes up, the economy is growing: the total value of all the goods and services being produced is going up.
In the UK and many other countries, data for GDP have only been collected after World War II. But using other sources of data, historians can make an informed guess about the growth of the world economy going a long way back.
And what they found is surprising: ‘economic growth’, it turns out, is quite a new thing.
This chart shows estimates of global GDP per person going back to 1,000 BC. It suggests that all the way up until 1750, for nearly 3,000 years, economic growth averaged only 0.01% per year. In other words, global living standards were essentially flat.