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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Studies

First Advisor

Vijay Prashad


Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is measured by adding up products and services that have a price tag for which money has exchanged hands. It has become the way to get a sense of a country’s level of progress and is widely used to compare economies to one another. Despite its integral role in guiding governmental policies, the statistic has many shortcomings that have been acknowledged, but rarely addressed in practice.

This senior exercise will look at the history of GDP, which the US Department of Commerce has deemed the twentieth century’s greatest invention. It will discuss how the indicator became the unchallenged number for measuring national welfare and examine the limits of its use. Even the Nobel Prize winning economist who helped develop the measurement warned that it should not be mistaken for a replacement to other necessary indicators that give a true picture of the well-being of citizens. Our well-being is multidimensional and it involves realms well outside financial transactions. This discussion becomes even more important as we look at the future of economic growth.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. Accessible to members of the Trinity community only.