Development Centre

Development Centre Studies: The World Economy: Historical Statistics


A Tale of Four Economies

To gain a greater understanding of the concepts involved, click on unique colors under the color heading on the right hand side of the chart to better differentiate between the four states or regions.


The figure, based on Prof. Angus Maddison’s research shows clearly that the economic growth of the four leading world economies was in no way lineal.  The four moving points on the graph represent the economies of China, Western Europe, the former URSS and the United States. Looking at the sub-categories of population, GDP and GDP per capita you can see that China was the largest economy in the world for centuries.  It was not until the 19th Century that Western Europe finally caught up and soon after the United States assumed leadership. Now it looks like China is set to take back its title of largest economy on the planet.

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The book


Following on from his The World Economy: a Millennial Perspective, published by the OECD in 2001, Angus Maddison offers a rare insight into the history and political influence of national accounts and national accounting. He demonstrates that such statistical data can enlighten the contemporary and later observer in the analysis of economic phenomena such as growth, market formation and income distribution.


This approach is particularly interesting for developing countries which often lack the expertise or data to produce good national accounts and are thus deprived of a vital policy-making tool. For OECD countries, it is a reminder that policies need to be grounded in the reality of verifiable economic data if they are to succeed.


For more information about the author and his books on world economy please see: .


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Development Centre Studies

The World Economy: Historical Statistics

Available in print (paperback) and electronic format (pdf)
288 pages, OECD, Paris 2003
Euros 21
ISBN 92-64-10412-7


This publication is available from the OECD Online Bookshop.