gross national product

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

gross national product

gross national product (GNP), in economics, a quantitative measure of a nation's total economic activity, generally assessed yearly or quarterly. In estimating the GNP, only the final value of a product is counted (e.g., automobiles, but not the steel that they contain). The three major components of GNP are consumer purchases, private investment (including overseas investment but excluding foreign investment in a nation's economy), and government spending. The GNP is reported quarterly in the United States and was used as a barometer of the nation's economic health from the 1930s, but in 1991 the government switched to emphasizing the gross domestic product (GDP), which is similar but covers only goods and services produced inside a nation's borders. The GDP, which also is reported quarterly, is regarded as a better indicator of the performance of a country's economy and is used as such by most industrialized nations. The U.S. government continues to report the GNP, but about a month after the GDP. Despite the fact that GNP and GDP do not measure the service and government sectors as well as they do manufacturing, and also do not allow for inflation, overall value of production, and other factors, such as the value of the underground economy, they are nevertheless significant measurements of economic health. In the United States, the economy has been considered to be in recession if there are two consecutive quarters of decrease in GNP or GDP. In 1995 the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) created a new system for measuring national wealth, based on the value of natural and mineral resources.

See L. C. Thurow and R. L. Heilbroner, Economics Explained (1987); J. Craven, Introduction to Economics (1984); D. Coyle, G.D.P.: A Brief but Affectionate History (2014).

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