Via Visualizing Economics, here is a big ass chart of US GDP:


click for insanely ginormous chart

Category: Data Analysis, Economy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

25 Responses to “Long-term real growth in US GDP per capita 1871-2009”

  1. socaljoe says:

    What measure of inflation is used to calculate real growth. CPI?… surely you are joking.

  2. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    It’s probably notable that the per capita GDP growth was stymied in the late 19th and early 20th century by the huge wave of immigration that caused the population and work force to swell.

    It’s no coincidence that the rate of growth really took off once immigration quotas were slashed in the early 1930′s. It’s interesting to see how the mal-investment of the 1920′s was wiped out by the drop to the depths of the Great Depression.

    My take from this chart, other than it should be in semi-log form, is that population growth combined with large leaps in productivity tend to negate possible gains in per capita GDP.

    Another thought I had was could the depression of 1921 be compared on a chart with our recession of 2001? The boom following the 1921 depression could be seen in a similar light as the credit boom following the 2001 recession. The post 2007 and 1929 busts are quite similar in systemic magnitude.

    I’ve always compared the 1929 Dow crash to the 2000 internet crash, but during the 1920′s something like 96% of the US population saw little change in their standard of living, which seems to make the period from 2000-2007 a decent comparison to that decade.

    This view does not mesh with 70-year cycles, but I think it’s worthwhile to note from a productivity and personal income standpoint.

  3. JimRino says:

    Finally a graph that matches population and the “Al Gore-Hockey Stick”.

  4. cognos says:

    The future looks bleak.

    What will we do about all the debt?

    The sky is falling…

  5. bigal says:

    So how does this correlate / lead / lag the S&P 500?

  6. call me ahab says:

    my guess cognos-

    is when folks were bringing up subprime and the housing bubble- you scoffed and laughed at those apparent fools-

    because subprime was contained and there was no housing bubble (Bernanke himself said so)-

    what more proof would a person such as cognos need to know that everyone else was “out to lunch” if they had different ideas-

    my guess is you lost your ass in the sell off- because you were so certain of the future-

    prove me wrong cognos . . .of course you could always lie- how would I know?

  7. Greg0658 says:

    really would like to see metrics like these in quintiles

  8. cognos says:

    call me ahab —

    keep looking for the subprime trade… in 10 or 20 or 50yrs… another one will happen.

    i did fine in the downturn. its about the business cycle 3-7 years of strong positive 0.5 to 2 years negative. we’re in for a good long boom here.

  9. gloppie says:

    I’d like to see the same chart in 1913 dollars!
    Just sayin’…..

  10. tagyoureit says:

    Looks like it’s forming the west rim of a a volcanic caldera top. The next twenty years will be a shallow scoop, followed by a 2-3 year east rim before terminal decline.

  11. bulfinch says:

    The future looks bright: we are the shining city on the hill, after all.

    We don’t need to worry about all the debt: debt doesn’t matter.

    The sky is not falling: Perseus took care of that long ago.

  12. happydaze1 says:

    The above graph ends in 2009. For what it’s worth, here’s what’s happened since.
    With real Q4 GDP at $13,370.1 billion (in 2005 dollars) and the current population estimate at 310,956,983 (from, US GDP per capita has recovered to $42,996. That’s up $1,106 from rock bottom in 2009, but still $845 shy of the peak reached in 2007.

  13. NoKidding says:

    The chart fits my understanding of history.

    In the 1860s, just off the left edge of the chart, civil war soldiers were dying of gangreen when “doctors” amputated their wounded limbs with hand saws. The anasthetic, if any, was a shot of booze.

    In the1920′s a vacation to Florida from New York meant more than a week travel on dirt roads in a rumbling jalopy. No washer/dryer, no refrigerator, no air conditioner, black and white films with live piano for a soundtrack. Mostly no indoor plumbing.

    In the 1960s it was one car per household, 7-mile-per-gallon sedans with 20k mile whitewalls, 6 TV channels, no tools for diagnosing or treating cancer, 6 TV channels, no microwave ovens, and of course no home computers, no internet, no cell phones, no iPads. Want to trade stocks? Call your broker on the telephone.

    The things we take for granted today could not be had at any price by Rockerfellers, Morgans and Biltmores.

  14. f says:

    I’d love to see an overlay of per capita debt.

  15. dickens says:

    The GDP data will, no doubt, look different after a benchmark revision? If I remember correctly, the benchmark turned the 2001 recession into a barely-there flattening out. The original data looked like the real deal. Now, if one wanted to get into conspiracy theory, that I can certainly respect, but for the vast majority of us, the data is subject to honest revision.

  16. bulfinch says:

    NoKidding: IMO, some of those things listed that we take for granted today are just “things” — mostly superfluous consumer goods which do not abet in the true pursuit of happiness any better than a Tin Lizzy on a dirt stretch.

  17. ashpelham2 says:

    NoKidding makes some some very good points. We do have tremendous technological advances. Things just might not be as bad as I, and others here, might sometimes think they are. But we still must maintain a tide house in this country, in order for those advances to continue and continue to enrich our lives. We can’t ship all the jobs to another country. We can’t let our debt become a drag on our ability to innovate. I’m not saying we need to give NASA a 2 billion dollar check now that the Space Shuttle is over. But we continue to grow because we continue to dream. I’m not sure that the people of tomorrow’s America are dreamers, as much as they are daydreamers. Some of the great innovations of today, things like Facebook, serve no real purpose other than entertainment. There’s no real money to make there, and very, very, very few paying jobs will come of it. The wealth has never been spread equally, but we are losing the middle of this country to religious doctrine and brainwashing, and spinning the coasts of our nation into disarray with special interest groups’s requests for funding.

  18. socaljoe says:

    You can make this chart look any way you want by using different measures of inflation. Compounded over 150 years the effect is enormous. According to some measures, thee has been no growth in decades.

  19. Greshams-law says:

    Gosh, I should move to the US!

  20. cfischer says:


    You really think we’re in for a boom from here on out, with the S&P doubling in the past two years? Seriously?

    Somehow, with QE ending, home prices continuing to erode, local and state government cuts, high energy prices, etc., if we can tread water for the next couple of years I’ll be thrilled.

    But if there is one thing 2008 taught me, it’s that no matter how many obstacles there are, people will still turn a blind eye and declare smooth sailing ahead. Especially those that work for Wall St.

    Sorry to hear that you were 100% long in 08-09.

  21. kaleberg says:

    Another interesting chart is the median value of an hour of work in terms of its ability to purchase a share of the per capita GDP. It’s been flat since the 80s, though it peaked in the 30s. Now that the GDP is coming down, I’m expecting it to rise. As they said in the 30s, nice work if you can get it.

  22. Jim Birch says:

    Comparing the GDP with the income quintile graphs above it appears that a lot of money has gone off the books?

  23. constantnormal says:

    Dontcha just LOVE trendlines?

    How they can be extended forever … look at the age vs years-from-birth trendline — a perfect example of linearity — and extend it … you can live forever!

    I wonder what this chart would look like for the Roman Empire … which still exists today in the form of Italy …

  24. machinehead says:

    This is another chart in which an inappropriate arithmetic vertical scale is seriously misleading. A logarithmic vertical scale would show that instead of accelerating (as implied by the rising slope), the GDP growth rate has actually flattened out since the 1970s.

  25. wtlf555 says:

    Wow – I love charts like this! One question I always have is the effect of fiat currency. If you look at inflation there was little or none until around 1933. You can basically draw a straight best fit line from 1776 to 1933 and then a very steep line from 1933 on.

    That makes sense to me as a metal standard with metal growth similar to economic growth limits or eliminates long-term inflation.

    But how does the erosion of our currency and the ability for govt to borrow endlessly and the economic/political drift of a fiat system to ZIRP effect economic growth?

    Should the trendline in the graph above be parabolic or should it be flat until the early 30s then straight up? And could a debt adjusted or delevered chart be created

    It matters a lot in ones core belief that something like Moores law applies to standard of living or whether its a chart of the death of a particular currency.