INTERNATIONAL DIFFERENCES IN GDP AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE
One way to gauge the usefulness of GDP as a measure of economic well-being is to examine international data. Rich and poor countries have vastly different levels of GDP per person. If a large GDP leads to a higher standard of living, then we should observe GDP to be strongly correlated with various measures of the quality of life. And, in fact, we do.
Table 3 shows twelve of the world’s most populous countries ranked in order of GDP per person. The table also shows life expectancy. (the expected life span at birth), literacy (the percentage of the adult population who can read), and Internet usage (the prcentage of the population that regularly uses the Internet). These data show a clear pattern. In rich countries, such as the United States, Germany, and Japan, people can expect to live into their late seventies, almost all of the population can read, and about half the population uses the Internet. In poor countries, such as Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, people typically live only until their fifties or early sixties, only about half of the population is literate, and
Internet usage is very rare.
TABLE 3 GDP and the Quality of Life The table shows GDP per person and three other measures of the quality of life for twelve major countries.
Data on other aspects of the quality of life tell a similar story. Countries with low GDP per person tend to have more infants with low birth weight, higher rates of infant mortality, higher rates of maternal mortality, higher rates of child malnutrition, and less common access to safe drinking water. In countries with low GDP per person, fewer school-age children are actually in school, and those who are in school must learn with fewer teachers per student. These countries also tend to have fewer televisions, fewer telephones, fewer paved roads, arid fewer. households with electricity. lnternational data leave no doubt that a nation’s GDP is closely associated with its citizens’ standard of living.