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Goldman: How 'Grand Theft Auto' Explains One of the Biggest Mysteries of the U.S. Economy

It's easy to measure improvements in semiconductors. With video games, not so much
An advertisement for the new Grand Theft Auto is displayed outside of a gaming store on Jan. 11, 2013 in New York City.

An advertisement for the new Grand Theft Auto is displayed outside of a gaming store on Jan. 11, 2013 in New York City.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. productivity growth has been surprisingly sluggish in recent years, prompting economists to embark on a lengthy quest to explain the decline and its role in stubbornly low inflation and GDP growth.

Measured productivity growth has averaged 1.5 percent over the past decade —far below the long-term average of 2.25 percent. While some of that decline can be attributed to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and ensuing recession, there's a longer-term trend at play here too.