Mothers, Children and GDP

One of the points I attempt to make in macro class is how GDP, Gross Domestic Product, is neither a precise way to measure health of the economy, nor is a very good measure of overall economic well-being.  In other words, just because GDP goes up doesn’t mean we’re necessarily better off.  Usually one is safe in concluding that when GDP goes down that things have  gotten worse, but rising GDP is not necessarily a sign of progress.

In addition, GDP and the way it is measured is highly biased.  It values anything done for sale or anything purchased.  But work that is done without a sale, such as altruistic work and favors done for another, or work that is done for oneself does not count at all.  Given our Western culture, this produces a distinct bias.  Much women’s work, particularly the work of mothers, is not valued at all.  This is not good.  Maxine Udall explains many of the consequences for women of how we measure GDP in her post  Protecting Our Grandchildren: The High Price of Motherhood.