Reading: Alternative Ways to Measure the Economy

Alternative Ways to Measure the Economy

Besides GDP, there are several different but closely related ways of measuring the size of the economy. We mentioned above that GDP can be thought of as total production and as total purchases. It can also be thought of as total income since anything produced and sold produces income.

One of the closest cousins of GDP is the gross national product (GNP). GDP includes only what is produced within a country’s borders. GNP adds what is produced by domestic businesses and labor abroad, and subtracts out any payments sent home to other countries by foreign labor and businesses located in the United States. In other words, GNP is based more on the production of citizens and firms of a country, wherever they are located, and GDP is based on what happens within the geographic boundaries of a certain country. For the United States, the gap between GDP and GNP is relatively small; in recent years, only about 0.2%. For small nations, which may have a substantial share of their population working abroad and sending money back home, the difference can be substantial.

Net national product (NNP) is calculated by taking GNP and then subtracting the value of how much physical capital is worn out, or reduced in value because of aging, over the course of a year. The process by which capital ages and loses value is called depreciation. The NNP can be further subdivided into national income, which includes all income to businesses and individuals, and personal income, which includes only income to people.

To get an idea of how these calculations work, follow the steps in the following feature.


Based on the information in table below:

  • What is the value of GDP?
  • What is the value of net exports?
  • What is the value of NNP?
Government purchases $120 billion
Depreciation $40 billion
Consumption $400 billion
Business Investment $60 billion
Exports $100 billion
Imports $120 billion
Income receipts from rest of the world $10 billion
Income payments to rest of the world $8 billion

Step 1. To calculate GDP use the following formula:

GDP = Consumption + Investment + Government spending + (Exports – Imports)
=C + I + G + (X – M)
=$400 + $60 + $120 + ($100 – $120)
=$560 billion


Step 2. To calculate net exports, subtract imports from exports.

Net exports = X – M
=$100 – $120
=–$20 billion


Step 3. To calculate NNP, use the following formula:

NNP = GDP + Income receipts from the rest of the world– Income payments to the rest of the world – Depreciation
=$560 + $10 – $8 – $40
=$522 billion