Compare and contrast: GDP

Strange Maps has a rather interesting map showing the United States with countries for each state that have a GDP comparable to that state [131 – US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs].

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) “is defined as the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time.” Exactly how it is measured and what it means create quite a debate in some circles. What it can be reasonably expected to represent is a hard measure, a comparable measure, that has some relationship to the economic vitality of a country.

A map like this simplifies many things. As the map notes describe, it does not consider the population involved in the comparisons. For instance, the population of Ireland is a bit over four million and that of Nevada, with a similar GDP, is about two and a half million. That is why it is necessary to keep in mind the purpose of the map and not to make too much of what it doesn’t really say. What it does say is striking enough.

When GDP is normalized by population, you get a rough measure of the average productivity of a country’s citizens. That is often then used as a measure of the quality of the education system in a country because a primary purpose of education is to produce productive workers. As in the Nevada to Ireland comparison, the results often do not provide much support for those who like to bash the US and its education system.

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