Gilligan Offers Insight on Global Economic Growth
McCombs Dean Thomas Gilligan kicked off the 2009-2010 University Lecture Series with a classic economics lesson about global economic growth. Speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 students and other members of the university community at Bass Concert Hall in the Texas Performing Arts Center Monday evening, Gilligan explored trends in prosperity and poverty around the world.
U.S. Economy Over Time
He explained how gross domestic product (GDP) is used as a measurement tool, how “real GDP” and “GDP per capita” are calculated, and how these figures are used to compare economies across regions, across populations and across the world.
(We've included a few of Gilligan's graphics here. To view the full presentation, with extensive data, charts and graphs, visit the McCombs SlideShare site.)
Gilligan took the students back in time, citing historical trends in U.S. GDP to illustrate the relatively recent burst of economic prosperity enjoyed by much of the developed world.
He also posed philosophical questions, such as “Does money guarantee happiness?” “Does money preclude happiness?” and “How might money contribute to human well-being?” and referenced the burgeoning field of “happiness research.”
GDP Per Capita and Satisfaction
In a survey of prosperity across nations, Gilligan shed light on just how far behind the U.S. some parts of the world are in terms of GDP per capita, but also how much GDP per capita varies within most nations.
“Income distribution in the United States is a bit unrepresentative of the income distribution in the developed world,” Gilligan said. “We have a bit more maldistribution of income in the United States than countries in the European community…. It tends to be more representative of emerging economies around the world.”
These figures provided context for the students to ponder questions such as: “Does growth promote income equality?” and “Does growth harm the environment?”
In his concluding remarks, Gilligan invited students to envision how they would be part of the world economy upon their graduation. He noted that the students will be among the 2 percent of the world population that has a college degree.
“You’re going to be amongst the highest wage-earners in the world,” he said. “You’re going to be investors, you’re going to be savers, both of which will contribute to economic growth. You’re also going to be among the most knowledgeable people in the world.
Human Capital and GDP Per Capita
“Whether you want to or not, you’re going to contribute very seriously to economic growth or to solving the challenges associated with economic growth,” he said.
The University Lecture Series, now in its third year, gives first-year students an opportunity to interact with leading members of the university faculty. All members of the university community are welcome to attend.