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The Whole World Is Getting Richer, and That's Good News

The Whole World Is Getting Richer, and That's Good News
Photograph by eStock Photo

This month the most accurate source for global data on the size of the world’s economies got a makeover. As a result, we have measures of economic growth and relative income across countries that are better than ever. These numbers suggest something surprising: a world of ubiquitously increasing wealth, where predictions of Malthusian traps and permanent poverty look increasingly archaic.

The Penn World Tables, created by Alan Heston, Robert Summers, and Bettina Aten at the University of Pennsylvania, were the first serious attempt to properly measure relative economic size around the planet. The researchers tracked the value of goods a country consumed, invested in, and traded using numbers that could be compared around the world and over decades.