NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What A Difference A Century Makes

December 20, 1999

Over the past 100 years, U.S. residents' income has climbed from second only to Great Britain to the highest in the world. The U.S. per capita share of gross domestic product -- even after adjusting for inflation -- rose from $4,748 to $32,444.

A year-end study released by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress makes the point that despite so much war and so many crises around the globe, technology just kept marching ahead in the 20th century.

Here are some other interesting developments of this century to reflect upon:

  • Federal expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product have risen from 2.6 percent to 18.7 percent -- with state and local expenditures rising from 5 percent of GDP to 9.4 percent today.
  • Federal government employment as a share of total employment has climbed from 0.9 percent to 2.0 percent -- with the proportion of state and local employees climbing from 3.2 percent then to 13.1 percent today.
  • The number of farms has dropped from 5.7 million to 2.1 million and the number of American farmers has declined from 11.1 million to 3.4 million.
  • But the number of Agriculture Department employees has soared from 2,900 to 96,400.

The U.S. population over the last 100 years has risen from 76 million to 274 million.

Source: John Godfrey, "Turmoil Not Able to Slow Advances," Washington Times, December 20, 1999.


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