Europe vs. US: Who’s Winning?
Update June 2012: See data through 2010 here.
People love to cherry-pick statistics to show that the US, or Europe, is winning the growth game. That got me curious: if you look at all the possible growth periods, who’s ahead (most)? Short answer: no clear winner. The results look pretty random. Over the longest periods, Europe is consistently ahead. But some shorter but still lengthy periods give the US the advantage.
Change in real GDP per capita (PPP), difference between EU and US
US growth percentage minus EU15 growth percentage (positive numbers=US ahead)
Starting years at left, ending years, top. Gray is >29 years. Outline is >19 years.
Here’s the same table expressed as a percentage difference.
(US growth %-EU growth%)/EU growth %
All data is from the OECD. I just did the arithmetic.
Update 10-5-2010: The tables above are great for demonstrating the danger of cherry-picking periods, but a graphic provides a more immediately-apprehensible understanding of the long flow of history:
Given the inherent difficulty of measuring GDP accurately, we can say that these are essentially identical. They both basically doubled over those 36 years. (Though the U.S. growth path shows far more volatility.)