Who put the ‘Gee’ in the GDP?

Gross Domestic Product

SOURCE: Flickr user Timothy J Carroll

Nerdy-exciting news from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, as they just added a range of intellectual property items — books, movies, TV shows, music, photographs and greeting cards (yes) — to the nation’s most famous metric of economic health: the Gross Domestic Product.

GDP measures the economic output of a country in terms of goods and services produced. “Goods and services,” in this case, must have durable economic value, adding to the total assets of the nation and its people. That’s why television shows that have value over time are included (dramas and comedies that can be syndicated), while news, game shows, and reality shows are not (their value is more immediate and ephemeral). Greeting cards represent creative output that can stock a store shelf, and be sold over time. Hence they’re in the metric too.

This may sound like the driest form of public economics, but it’s actually rather remarkable. The addition recognizes the economic (and therefore big-P “Public”) value of creative intellectual output not just now, but retroactive to 1929. And it encodes that recognition into one of our country’s most powerful and referenced metrics of success.

It doesn’t mean that creative output ONLY has economic value. But it means that creative individuals and industries have a more permanent and credentialed seat at a rather important table.


  1. says

    America exports Civilian aircraft worth 74 billion dollars, semiconductors worth 50.6 billion dollars, and passenger cars worth 49.6 billion dollars. In 2011, the “big six” film studios which collectively share roughly 81% of worldwide box office revenue amassed combined international box office sales of $12.5B. In 2010’s the sum was $12.7B.

    I’m not sure Hollywood produces art, but whatever it is, it is one of our major exports.