Talk:List of regions by past GDP (PPP)

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GDP as percentage of world GDP[edit]

This article used to have such a list which was very useful. Could that list be please brought back ? Madmonk11 (talk) 21:45, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

I am afraid not, because it was thoroughly OR. The cited source did not give these percentages. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 00:12, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
really ? I have in front of me Angus Maddison's The World Economy on the topic and the list is clearly mentioned there in table 8b. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Madmonk11 (talkcontribs) 21:28, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
But there are no such percentages in Maddison's work and the way many numbers for ancient empires were calculated by simply adding up modern countries was OR and SYN. The list as it is now represents Maddison's chart (whatever its intrinsic merits) absolutely faithfully both in terms of contents and format. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:42, 13 February 2011 (UTC)


I decided to rewrite and update the whole article for the following reasons:

  • The old version only listed Maddison's GDP estimates as if they were the only or best ones, but there are many more economic historians who have offered estimates of their own.
  • The Angus only version relied on his outdated 2001 The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, therefore I replaced it with his 2007 Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD which gives somewhat revised figures.
  • The old version left out many entries such as the Western European states, but added self-created "GDP shares" which were not offered by AM and don't even add up in many cases due to geographical overlaps.
  • The old version invented new entries by adding states and regions to form empires such as the Spanish empire or the Caliphate, again without a basis in Maddison's work (WP:SYN). Some entries like on the Roman Empire were even outright fabricated (see here).

The new version now lists GDP estimates of the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and Maddison's estimates as separate entries. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 11:32, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Good rewrite. But why don't we keep the Angus Maddison estimates only. Ofcourse i know most studies have been done Roman centric, but putting that here is giving much undue weight to the Romans. Atlast, India and China were far more wealthier than the Romans were during their heydays. Arjuncodename024 15:03, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
If "wealthier" means higher GDP per capita, then they weren't. I think you did a good job by restructuring the article as it now stands. Thanks. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:37, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
wealthier by GDP(PPP) per Maddison estimates. Apart from the Maddison estimates, don't you feel the article to be European-centric; a kind of Systemic bias. Per Maddison, (which is the only global set of figures we have here) Eastern sphere leads the GDP charts until 19th century CE. So IMO the European centrism doesn't help the balance of the article. Arjuncodename024 12:22, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
According to Maddison estimates, GPD (PPP) per capita of Western Europe is the highest throughout most of the past two millennia. Not sure what systemic bias you mean, since this is article is concerned with total GDP (PPP), however. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:14, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
The article only gives Total GDP (PPP) and not on per capita basis. Per the given figures, "Total Asia (excl. Japan)" has higher figures than "Total Western Europe" until 20th century. For instance, the figures of India alone are more than twice that of "Total Western Europe" in 1 and 1000 CE and continues to be higher until 18th century. Still the subsequent sections are based on Europe, Roman and Byzantine Empires; in total neglect of the riches of India and China. Arjuncodename024 14:51, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
Exactly, only total GDP values are given, therefore your notion of "wealthier", which refers to GDP per capita, is misplaced here. Wealth is always per-capita wealth, not aggregate one (ten people living close to subsistence level could in sum earn more than one rich man, yet everybody would still call them poor). The numbers on Europe, Roman Empire (which actually surpasses the GDP of both India and China in Milanovic and Scheidel estimates) and Eastern Roman Empire are given because they are there and discussed a lot. Without them, the article would be little more than List of regions by past GDP (PPP) according to Angus Maddison. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:11, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
I had been planning to update the 1913 section of the old article, by reformatting Maddison's numbers to reflect the boundaries of the time. For example, Austria-Hungary is not listed and Britain's colonies are excluded from the UK total. Should I create a new article?Roger J Cooper (talk) 00:38, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
How would you do that? Where do you get the numbers from? I had been thinking about making amendments to Maddison's numbers from other authors, too, but then I refrained because exactly that method has created a mess of the old version over time. Same with creating new entries by adding up or splitting numbers from Maddison's data set which, however, Maddison did not present this way. Seems too close to WP:SYN. Right now, I cannot think of a better method than to set up separate tables for separate estimates. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 08:56, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

I see the British Empire has been removed from the list, yet the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire are mentioned in their own section and the former USSR has its own place in a list. Why are we treating some entities a certain way and not others? BritishWatcher (talk) 12:32, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

For the reasons above. I am not aware of any separate estimate of the British empire by Maddison (or anyone else, although there must exist some), but if there is one we need to work out, I believe, how to include it best without affecting the integrity of his 1-2003 list. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:02, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Total Asia (excl. Japan) but not Total Asia (excl. China and India)[edit]

Why do we have Total Asia (excl. Japan) but not Total Asia (excl. China and India) when in fact China and India have dominated world GDP for 95% of the past 2000 years. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:17, 15 July 2010 (UTC)

Well, because this is the way Maddison organized his list which I reproduced faithfully. The underlying reason is obviously that the steep economic performance of Japan, the first industrialized non-Western country, since the 19th century has kept it apart from the rest of Asia which only began to develop post 1945. One should keep in mind that GDP as such means very little, under premodern conditions basically only a function of population size, and that this list rests on GDP per capita for which however neither India nor China were particularly notable in the last two millennia. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:48, 15 July 2010 (UTC)
So over the past two millennia who were more significant in GDP per capita? Because it seems pretty unlikely the Chinese and Indians had half the worlds population or even close for the past 2000 years. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Eraserhead1 (talkcontribs)
I created a List of regions by past GDP (PPP) per capita, identical in format. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:33, 15 July 2010 (UTC)
Fair enough, I'm not convinced but it looks like the data is less accurate than I'd have expected (I find it difficult to believe that the UK was poorer than the USA when we had beasts of burden and they didn't) so its impossible to argue that the Chinese were significantly richer on average than the Europeans. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 22:20, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
Not sure whether you have undestood the stats fully. According to Maddison, Western Europe was on average wealthier than China in all time periods save 1000 AD, while the UK had a GDP per capita as high or higher than the US until 1913. It's only stats, others have other numbers, but that's what Maddison's estimates of GDP per capita in terms of PPP say. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 11:24, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Damn, I missed out a very key part of my previous statement, which is that I'm talking about the 1AD figures. So let me rephrase my comment.

According to the figures in 1AD the UK was equally as rich as the US even though we had beasts of burden and were part of a large and fairly well governed empire. Given the US at the time had neither it seems highly unlikely they were as rich per capita as the UK at the time.

Due to that I think that Maddison is just making an educated guess for the US - therefore while the figures for other regions could well be equally dodgy, the figures for China and India could be too low or they could be too high - I don't think the data is accurate enough to really surmise either way. So if he's gone just with Asia ex. Japan then I think we should just go with that. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 12:17, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

You are absolutely right that particularly these early estimates are not more than educated guesses – at best. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:43, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

Question about other estimates other than Maddison[edit]

It appears the only estimates available on wikipedia are that of Maddison, which is not exactly the best way to insure balance. For starters, a wide variety of estimates for past GDP (PPP) per capita are avilable (with huge margins of error for all), and it is best to list them all to give readers a balance. For example, the estimates of Bairoch, another economic historian, puts Chinese per capita income in 1800 at a higher level than western Europe, yet Maddison believes Finland, with its self-sufficient Natural economy, had a higher level of GDP per capita than China. Pomeranz's Great Divergence also suggests that Chinese per capita income was at least as much as Western Europe as recent as 1800, but Maddison's estimates are that European per capita income was 3X as much at that date! Another example of astonishingly off statistics would be the aforementioned statistic about American natives having the same GDP per capita as Roman Britain. It seems to be me that these are some pretty wild (and astonishingly inaccurate) guesses.Teeninvestor (talk) 19:55, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

Stop removing mentions of Pomeranz from the lead. This is a complete case of WP:OWN in which editors are removing valid sources and materials from the lead. It's obvious that if GDP per capita estimates are off, so are GDP figures. Pomeranz states clearly that he agrees with the traditional view of population in China/Europe.Teeninvestor (talk) 22:54, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Bairoch's estimates have severe problems. I have read some of his papers, where he makes such claims. His methodology is not the best and he appears to be driven by an certain "anti European" agenda. For example, his estimates of the distribution of world manufacturing production in 1980, from his "INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRIALIZATION LEVELS FROM 1750-1980", European Journal of Economic History, he put's Western Europe share at 22%, while the USSR gets 15%! However, Western Europe was producing 17-18 million motor vehicles in 1980, while the USSR was producing 2.2 million motor vehicles (only little west Germany, a country of 60 million, was pumping 5 million motor vehicles every year) and the quality of European motor vehicles was greatly superior. While one can argue that the USSR didn't put much weight on the production of motor vehicles but the difference is simple too great, since the motor vehicle industry was the largest manufacturing industry in the world in 1980. And the second largest was the emerging electronics industry, also an industry that the USSR did not develop.
Why he manage to produce such estimates? Simple: he used total energy consumption estimates. Anybody knows how Western Europe is energetically efficient, while the USSR was enormously inefficient in terms of energy input/production output. His estimates also greatly underestimate Brazil's industrial production, since Brazil is a country powered by hydropower and is very energetically efficient, producing a GDP greater than Russia today and emitting only 20% of the Co2. One shouldn't use energy consumption estimates to estimate manufacturing production. Specially today, when the bulk of the energy consumed by the United States isn't used in industry.
Also, he estimated that Japan's per capita industrial production in 1980 was 60% of the US and Germany, 70%. However, Germany and Japan had much greater steel, motor vehicle, shipbuilding, machinery and electronics production per capita than the US in 1980. According to the United Nations national accounts database, Germany's per capita manufacturing production in 1980 was 160% of the United States, not 70%, a number much more consistent with the physical production numbers of Germany and the US manufacturing industries. The explanation? The US per capita consumption of energy was greater than Germany and Japan, so Bairoch's estimates on per capita industrial production were also distorted in this case.
His 1800 GDP per capita estimates are also inconsistent with the evidence in many cases. China's life expectancy was 24 years in 1800, UK's life expectancy was 36 years, an enormous difference for pre industrial countries. According to first hand accounts, China was much poorer than any country in Europe (source: Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations). Smith argues that the living conditions of the average Chinese were far worse than any European country, though the aggregate total wealth of China was great. Conclusion: His estimates shouldn't be used as if they were rigorous estimates that can be used as if they represented reality unbiased. Maddison estimates are a bit better, but his numbers also need a great degree of interpretation and I also found many errors in his estimates, thought less errors than Bairoch's semi useless estimates. --RafaelG (talk) 20:57, 12 February 2011 (UTC)
There was recently some user, who spend a great deal of time and energy to give the whole discussion a sinocentric spin by talking up its pre-industrial potential to nonsensical heights, his mess hasn't still be cleared up at Great Divergence. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:46, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

My Roman GDP Estimate[edit]

I am a PHD candidate in economics. Although perhaps I am still not qualified to make a scientific estimate of the Roman GDP, I will make one estimate right here for two reasons:

1 - To demonstrate how much some estimates may have underestimated the Roman GDP in comparison to other countries. This would be the upper estimate of the upper range of possible estimates of Roman GDP.

2 - To demonstrate how large is the degree of arbitrariness in ancient GDP estimates. The purpose here is to show how arbitrary these estimates can be.

I know that in wikipedia original research shouldn't be put into the article, but this is in the discussion area.

My estimate is based on the data on the average daily wages for laborers in Roman Italy and other areas like ancient Palestine (according to the bible, a day's wage was 1 denarius, equivalent to 4 sesterces), which was in the area of 4 sesterces a day. Historically, many countries had their per capita incomes in proportion to 200 days of the average wage (particularly European countries in the 16-18th centuries), that's because as workers worked 300-350 day every year and consisted of 40% of the total population, so the per capita supply of work days would be 120-140 days. Since labor usually consists of 60-70% of the national income (the rest being profits, rents and interest), therefore per capita income is proportional to the wages of 200 work days. Therefore Roman per capita income was 800 sesterces. Since the price of wheat was 3 sesterces per modius and a modius had 6.5 kg of wheat, therefore the cost of wheat was 0.46 sesterces per kg. Therefore the per capita income in terms of wheat of the Roman Empire was 1,740 kg. A much higher number than those provided by the Roman GDP estimates in the Roman Economy page.

Since the subsistence income was proportional to 350 kg of wheat, or 160 sesterces, the equivalent to 400, 1990 international dollars (while Goldsmith estimate minimum subsistence at 150 sesterces.), the Roman Empire had a per capita income of 1,990 dollars according to this estimate, much higher than any other per capita income estimate of the Empire produced by these researches. That's mainly because they regarded the 4 sesterces average wage as the income of craftsman and other sub-elite occupations and the not the average income of the general population. They usually use the 4.5 kg of wheat average wage for Egyptian laborers, that would yield a per capita income of 900 kg of wheat, much closer to some estimates. But other evidences indicate that the wages in Egypt were lower than in other parts of the Empire, which explains why Egypt didn't use slave labor in large scale.

Roman population estimates vary from 45 million to 120 million. Using the uppermost estimate, Gibbons classic guesstimate for the empire was 120 million, and applying the 1,990 per capita income on Gibbon's estimate yields a GDP of tremendous 238,800 million 1990 dollars. About the GDP of the world in 1500 or Western Europe in 1820 and 10 times the GDP of Han China. Impossible? Perhaps not, Rome had 1 million inhabitants in the first century, Alexandria had about half million (perhaps a million according to the fact that in 50 BCE the city had 300,000 "citizens", which may mean adult male citizens), London had 960,000 inhabitants in 1800, Paris had 550,000. The two largest cities in Western Europe were the same size as the two largest cities in the Empire.

Also, Roman GDP may have been much larger than Han China's, according to Sheildel: "However, despite these very considerable margins of uncertainty, even the broadest range of guesses for the money stock in Han China of between 6 and 28 billion liters of grain equivalent barely overlaps with the much higher range from 22 to 90 billion liters proposed for the Roman empire.", The Monetary Systems of the Han and Roman Empires, page 52, link: Therefore the maximum possible difference in size of money stock would imply in a Roman stock 15 times greater than Han China. GDP is very strongly correlated with money stock, though more advanced ancient economies may need a larger money stock to operate because they have greater degree of monetization.

Usually economic historians like Temin and Sheildel deny that the Roman Empire had GDP in these levels based on the conclusion that it would be impossible for it do have developed so much, as they imply that it would be impossible for any other civilization to reach the degree of development of europe in 1800. I think that they are assuming what they need to prove.--RafaelG (talk) 22:19, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

Figures for 1980-present[edit]

This article is really not the best place for data on present countries. There are numerous other lists for that (see bottom template). The list here firmly focuses on historical economies, where data is most sketchy and scholars commonly need to apply ingenious means to arrive at them. You can't group this 'guessimate' data together with modern reliable statistics of the past three decades, the difference is like night and day. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:08, 7 May 2011 (UTC)


I think it would be interesting to have some information about Argentina, the only country that has gone from being one of the richest in the early 1900s to one of the developing countries in the 2000s. Apparently it is a very unique case:

  • The fourth group of countries encompasses those that were developed in 1900 and are developing in 2000. Only one country falls into this category and that is Argentina.
  • Although placed among the highest incomes per capita in the world in 1900, “Argentina’s ratio to OECD income fell to 84 percent in 1950, 65 percent in 1973, and a mere 43 percent in 1987. . . Argentina is therefore unique (della Paolera and Taylor, 2003, p. 5). pdf

I hope somebody else can add some information about this in the article (to show an example of a country going from rich to developing). Regards. (talk) 22:11, 14 April 2012 (UTC)

2012 figures inclusion[edit]

Gun Powder Ma I don't want to contradict your correction of my "guessimate" data. But if you're as intellectual as your profile suggests I would like you to please add "unguessimate" information so that educational institutions follow updated data. Please do so if you can or otherwise I will keep on re-entering my so called "guessimate" IMF data and you keep on deleting it and so on and so forth, I had entered the data from rounded off IMF and CIA World Factbook figures and since I forgot to include references you erased my independently entered unprotected "raw" data. I don't know who you are but I urge you not to delete the data that I may enter because I am just a high school student and my school's board keeps track of updated data and adds that data in their textbooks and that may affect the youth outlook of my country and several others on a high scale pessimistic extent or a high scale false optimistic extent. For your information, my country is full of realistic critics. Face the facts and accept change because it is inevitable and is also a reality. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:56, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

This list of past GDP has a strong historical perspective. For the inclusion of current data, please go to List of countries by GDP (PPP). Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:40, 6 June 2012 (UTC)