The US economy – some facts

4 November 2020 by Michael Roberts

(CC - Pixabay)

As we await the result of the US presidential election, here are some facts about the US economy within a world context.

Share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. of world GDP GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.

In 1980, it looked like this:

The US had more than twice of the share of global GDP than Japan, and more than Japan, Germany and France combined. China’s share was less than 2% and virtually the same as India.

Now in 2019, pre-COVID, it looked like this:

The US still has the largest in constant dollar terms. Although the share has declined, the US share is larger than the rest of the G7 combined. But China has rocketed up to over 16%, leaving India in its tracks.

GDP per capita growth rate 1980-2020

The US real GDP per person growth rate has averaged less than 3% a year and has been slowing consistently, while China’s has averaged around three times as much.

Share of world manufacturing output

At the start of the 1980s, US manufacturing had more than 25% of world output, with Japan at 11% and Germany 7%. China was nowhere. By 2017, the US share had slipped to about 18%, with both Japan and Germany below 10%. China had rocketed to over 25%.

Share of world exports

The US share of world exports in 1980 was over 13% with Germany and Japan well behind. China had only 1% of world exports.

In 2019, China overtook the US with nearly an 11% share while the US share slipped to 10%

Life expectancy

Life expectancy is an important measure of the quality of life. Back in 1980, the US was 21st in the world with life expectancy at birth of 73.6 years, behind most European countries and even Cuba.

By 2019, the US had dropped to 43 in the rankings with 78.5 years and China was catching up at 76.7 years.

Inequality of income and wealth

Of the G7 economies, the US has the most unequal distribution of both personal wealth and incomes.

Military expenditure

The US spends three times as much on military expenditure than China and more than the rest of the world put together!

Carbon emissions per head

The US is the world leader in carbon emissions per person, followed by the energy and minerals exporters, Australia and Canada. China’s emissions per head are less than half that of the US.

Robots per capita

Korea leads the world in robot density with more than three times the number per 10,000 employees than the US. The US lags behind Germany, Japan and Sweden. China is catching up fast and will surpass the US next year.

Homicide rate

The US has the highest homicide rate among the G7 economies, with nearly five times the average G7 rate and nine times the rate in China.

Michael Roberts

has worked in the City of London for over 30 years as an economist. He is author of several books on the world economy: The Great Recession, The Long Depression and World in Crisis. He blogs at

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