Williamson Chapter 6 - Chapter 6 Economic Growth Malthus...

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Chapter 6 Economic Growth: Malthus and Solow ! Teaching Goals Students easily take for granted the much more abundant standard of living of today as opposed to 20, 50, or 100 years ago. Sometimes it is easier to remind students of what their ancestors had to do without, rather than simply referring to per capita income levels over time. Recessions come and go, and yet economic growth swamps the lost output we endure during hard times. The typical student begins study of economic growth against the backdrop of the recent growth experience of the United States. The current standard of living in the United States vastly surpasses the current standard of living in most countries and would have been unimaginable anywhere in the world before the advent of the industrial revolution. Until about 1800, the world economy produced little more than a subsistence level of income for any but the richest individuals. Growth in per capita income was nonexistent. The Malthusian model of growth explains the tendency of increases in population to dilute any gains in productivity. The industrial revolution introduced the possibility of sustained growth in per capita income through the accumulation of physical capital. However, growth experience has varied widely around the world. The richer countries have a sustained record of growth. Per capita income in the United States has proceeded at an average rate of about 2% per year. While 2% growth may seem small, it is important for students to realize that such growth transforms into a more than doubling of per capita GDP per generation. Unfortunately, the poorer countries have remained poor. Furthermore, their growth rates have not generally matched growth rates in the richer countries, so that the poor countries fall farther and farther behind. Such differences in standards of living and growth prospects present puzzles that the study of economic growth hopes to solve. ! Classroom Discussion Topics Getting students to relate to differences in standards of living can sometimes be difficult. It is easy to take one’s own standard of living for granted. An interesting discussion topic is whether students would be willing to travel back in time to 100 or 200 years ago, if they could be one of the richest people of those earlier times. Would the tradeoff be worthwhile? While students typically stress factors like antiquated view about freedom of choice, and racial and gender issues, try to encourage students to divide their concerns into those that are more economic as opposed to social. Also point out that higher standards of living allow societies to be more concerned about issues of equality when mere survival is no longer precarious.
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Chapter 6 Economic Growth: Malthus and Solow 53 Students often view population growth as the result of cultural factors and personal preferences. Against the abundance of daily living, it is easy to forget economic factors. Ask the students for examples of economic factors that might impact on fertility decisions. The Malthusian model suggests that growth may
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