For example, while Germany’s GDP increased by about thirteen percent, the US’s GDP has increased by more than a third of its GDP in 2009.

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    $\begingroup$ It is too generic a question, also, why don't you provide a link to the data you are referring to? I think you should study the data on value added by sector:tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp $\endgroup$ – london Dec 22 '18 at 22:31

It is not immediately clear which GDP numbers you are referring to, so here is a selection from the IMF World Econonic Outlook

enter image description here

I would therefore guess that your numbers were GDP at current prices measured in US dollars (Germany up 8%, USA up 35% from 2009 to 2017). The main cause of this difference seems to be the change in the USD/EUR exchange rate over the eight years, largely driven by higher interest rates in the US. Measured in national currencies the results are more similar (Germany up 33%, USA up 35%).

A better measure might be the real change in GDP measured at constant prices in national currency so as to adjust for domestic inflation (Germany up 19%, USA up 19%). Indeed, allowing for faster population growth in the USA, GDP per capita measured at constant prices in national currency has grown slightly faster in Germany than the USA (Germany up 15%, USA up 12%)


I'm not sure where your data are from, but in the following data taken from the World Bank*, $\color{red}{\text{Row (1)}}$ paints roughly your picture, with US GDP rising by 34.5% and Germany GDP rising by only 7.6% between 2009 and 2017.

enter image description here

However, once we take into account $\color{blue}{\text{(2) relative price levels}}$, this seemingly huge gap disappears.**

And when we also take into account (3) changes in population (with the US enjoying a bigger increase than Germany), then it actually appears that Germany has done slightly better.


*I retrieved all data retrieved from the World Bank website on 2018-12-22 (and the World Bank states that they were last updated on 2018-11-14). Links:

  1. GDP (current US $).
  2. GDP, PPP (constant 2011 international \$).
  3. GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international \$).

**The step from (1) to (2) uses the World Bank's International Comparison Program or Project (ICP), which may or may not be accurate and, indeed, has been heavily criticized by some. For example, the Indian economist Surjit Bhalla once called this program no different from a snake-oil salesman.


Part of the answer is definitely population growth. If a country is becoming more productive on average, its residents will produce more GDP per capita. (If you consider GDP a good metric of this.) If a country gets more residents while GDP per capita is unchanged, that will also increase the GDP. If GDP per capita is increasing while population is also increasing, the two effects add up.

Most European nations do not have population growth rates comparable to that of the US.

See US-German population growth rate comparison here.

Therefore the US GDP growth rate has a component - population growth - that is missing from the European growth rates. This may not make the differences go away entirely, but it does make them smaller.

See US-German GDP growth rate comparison here.

See US-German GDP per capita growth rate comparison here.


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