Economic Growth: Measurement, Generation, and Impact

GP Chudal

Meaning of Economic Growth

Economic growth is when a country’s production and consumption of goods and services go up over time. It is a necessary component of economic development and is measured by changes in GDP (GDP). Economic growth is critical because it raises the standard of living of individuals and societies by creating more job opportunities, increasing incomes, and increasing the availability of goods and services.


The economy grows because of technological progress, capital accumulation, human capital growth, and institutional factors. Technological advancements create new products, processes, and techniques that increase production efficiency.

The accumulation of physical capital, such as machinery, infrastructure, and buildings, is referred to as capital accumulation. Human capital refers to the development of individuals’ skills and knowledge through education and training, which is necessary for innovation and productivity. Institutional factors such as the rule of law, property rights, and effective governance help to foster economic growth.

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Definitions of Economic Growth

Solow, a Nobel laureate economist, emphasizes the importance of sustained growth, which means that the increase in output should be sustained over time. According to Solow, “Economic growth is the sustained increase in per capita output of goods and services.

Another Nobel Prize winner, economist Paul Romer, emphasizes the importance of innovation and technology in driving economic growth. According to Romer, “Economic growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable.”

According to J.A Schumpeter, “Economic growth is the process of creative destruction.” Schumpeter, a 20th-century economist, contends that economic growth is driven by innovation, which creates new products and services that replace older ones. According to Schumpeter, this process of creative destruction is required for economic growth to occur.

Types of Economic Growth

Economic growth can be classified into two types: extensive and intensive. Extensive growth occurs when the number of inputs used in production, such as labor and capital, increases. Intensive growth occurs when productivity rises, allowing more output to be produced with the same amount of inputs.

Economic growth can also be classified as either sustainable or unsustainable. Sustainable economic growth is defined as not harming the environment or depleting natural resources. On the other hand, unsustainable economic growth occurs at the expense of the environment and natural resources, which may have long-term negative consequences.

Economic growth has several advantages, including higher living standards, increased access to education and healthcare, and lower poverty rates. Economic growth also increases tax revenues, which can fund public goods like infrastructure, education, and healthcare. Furthermore, economic growth generates job opportunities, which reduces unemployment and raises household incomes.

However, economic growth has drawbacks. Rapid economic growth has the potential to degrade the environment, deplete resources, and increase income inequality. It can also cause inflation, which reduces consumers’ purchasing power and increases competition, which can result in market saturation and lower profitability for businesses.

Phases of Economic Growth

According to the business cycle, economic growth has four distinct phases. The natural fluctuations in economic activity that occur over time are referred to as the business cycle. Typically, four distinct phases separate these fluctuations: expansion, peak, contraction, and trough. Each of these phases has its own distinct characteristics and economic effects.

  1. Expansion: Economic activity is increasing during the expansion phase of the business cycle, and there is a general sense of optimism and confidence in the economy. An increase in consumer spending, investment, and employment are characteristics of this stage. Profits are increasing as businesses expand. Credit is widely available, and interest rates are low. As demand for goods and services exceeds supply, inflation may begin to rise.
  2. Peak: The peak phase represents the end of the expansion phase and the start of a slowdown in economic activity. At the peak, economic growth has peaked, and business activity begins to level off. The economy is still growing, but at a slower pace than previously. The labor market could tighten further, and inflationary pressures could rise further.
  3. Contraction: During the contraction phase, the economy starts to slow down, and there is a general feeling of pessimism and uncertainty. A decline in consumer spending, investment, and employment typically indicates this stage. Businesses may begin to reduce production, and profits may fall. Interest rates may rise, making credit more difficult to obtain. As demand for goods and services falls, inflation may begin to moderate.
  4. Trough: The trough phase signals the end of the contraction phase and the start of a new expansion phase. Economic growth has reached its lowest point at the trough, and business activity has stabilized. Although the economy is no longer contracting, it may remain weak. The labor market could be weak, and inflation could be low or even negative. Interest rates may remain low, and credit may continue to be difficult to obtain.
Figure: Phases of Economic Growth

The phases of the business cycle are cyclical and repeat over time. Understanding these phases can help individuals and businesses make proper investing, borrowing, and spending decisions. By monitoring economic indicators and trends, individuals and businesses can prepare for the different phases of the business cycle and position themselves for success.

How to measure Economic Growth?

Measuring economic growth is important for understanding the health and well-being of an economy. Some common methods for measuring economic growth are:

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP): GDP is the total value of all goods and services produced within a country’s borders over a specific time period, usually a year or a quarter. It is the most common way to measure economic growth and gives a snapshot of the size of the economy. A rise in GDP indicates that the economy is expanding.
  2. Gross National Product (GNP): GNP is the total value of all goods and services a country’s citizens produce in a given period, regardless of location. It includes income from citizens working abroad but not income from non-citizens working inside the country’s borders. GNP is a less commonly used metric than GDP.
  3. Real GDP: Real GDP considers inflation and measures economic growth considering price changes. Taking inflation out of the picture makes real GDP easier to compare economic growth over time.
  4. Per capita GDP: By dividing GDP by the population, per capita GDP provides a measure of economic growth on a per-person basis. It indicates the average standard of living in a country and can be used to compare economic development levels across countries.
  5. Employment and unemployment rates: By indicating the health of the labor market, employment and unemployment rates provide a measure of economic growth. Low unemployment and high employment rates indicate a healthy economy with expanding job opportunities.
  6. Productivity measures: Productivity measures, such as labor or total factor productivity, indicate the efficiency with which inputs are transformed into outputs, thus providing a measure of economic growth. Productivity gains can lead to increases in GDP and economic growth.

How To Generate Economic Growth

Generating economic growth involves various factors, including government policies, business strategies, and individual actions. It requires a coordinated effort between governments, businesses, and individuals. Some key strategies for generating economic growth are explained as under:

  1. Investment in infrastructure: Investing in infrastructure, such as transportation systems, communication networks, and public utilities, can stimulate economic growth by creating jobs, increasing productivity, and attracting business investment.
  2. Support for small businesses: Small businesses are vital to economic growth and job creation. Governments can support small businesses through tax incentives, access to capital, and business development programs.
  3. Education and training: A skilled and educated workforce is essential for economic growth. Governments can invest in education and training programs to improve the skills and knowledge of workers, increasing their productivity and employability.
  4. Innovation and technology: Innovation and technology are key drivers of economic growth, enabling new products and services to be developed and increasing productivity. Governments can support research and development programs, and businesses can invest in new technologies and processes.
  5. Trade and globalization: Increased trade and globalization can stimulate economic growth by providing access to new markets, increasing competition, and encouraging specialization and efficiency.
  6. Sound macroeconomic policies: Sound macroeconomic policies, such as stable monetary policy, fiscal discipline, and a stable regulatory environment, can provide a foundation for sustained economic growth.
  7. Entrepreneurship and creativity: Encouraging entrepreneurship and creativity can foster innovation and new business creation, providing a source of economic growth.

Effect of Taxes on Economic Growth

Taxes can have both positive and negative effects on economic growth. Taxes can affect economic growth in the following ways:

  1. Investment: Taxes on investment can reduce the amount of money available for investment, reducing the rate of capital formation and slowing economic growth. Lowering taxes on investment can encourage more investment, leading to higher economic growth.
  2. Entrepreneurship: High taxes can discourage entrepreneurship by reducing the rewards for taking risks and starting new businesses. Lower taxes on entrepreneurship can encourage more people to start businesses, leading to higher economic growth.
  3. Consumption: Taxes on consumption, such as sales taxes, can reduce consumer spending and slow economic growth. Lowering these taxes can increase consumer spending, leading to higher economic growth.
  4. Workforce participation: Taxes on labor income can reduce the incentives to work, leading to lower workforce participation and lower economic growth. Lowering these taxes can increase incentives to work, leading to higher economic growth.
  5. Government spending: Taxes are used to finance government spending, which can stimulate economic growth if the spending is directed towards investments in infrastructure or education. However, if the government spends money on unproductive programs, it can reduce economic growth.
  6. Tax evasion: High tax rates can lead to tax evasion, which reduces the amount of revenue the government collects and can lead to a less efficient tax system.

How does Economic Growth differ from Economic Development?

Economic growth is when the amount of goods and services an economy makes increases over time. It is typically measured by the rate of growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the total value of all goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a given period of time. Economic growth is important because it can lead to higher living standards, more job opportunities, and less poverty.

On the other hand, economic development refers to a broader set of changes in an economy that go beyond an increase in GDP. Economic development includes both improvements in human well-being, such as increased access to education, healthcare, and other basic necessities, and changes in social and political institutions that promote greater equality and participation in decision-making.

Economic development aims to improve people’s overall quality of life in an economy. While economic growth is required for economic development, it is insufficient. For example, a country may experience rapid economic growth but fail to improve its citizens’ well-being if the benefits of growth are not distributed equitably, or the environment suffers. In contrast, a country’s economic growth may be slower but significantly improve human well-being and social inclusion, leading to more sustainable and inclusive economic development.

To summarize, economic growth is a necessary component of economic development because it raises the standard of living of individuals and societies. Technological advancements, capital accumulation, human capital, and institutional factors play a role. While economic growth has many advantages, it also has drawbacks that must be addressed for growth to be sustainable and beneficial.

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