Last updated: September 2005
Volume 52, Special Issue
IMF Staff Papers

Reconsidering Expectations of Economic Growth After World War II from the Perspective of 2004

Robert W. Fogel

Full Text of this Article (PDF 68K)

Abstract: At the close of World War II, the future of economic development was the subject of wide-ranging debates. Historical experience has since shown that these forecasts were uniformly too pessimistic. Expectations for the American economy focused on the likelihood of secular stagnation, which continued to be debated throughout the post-war period. Concerns raised during the late 1960s and early 1970s about rapid population growth smothering the potential for economic growth in developing countries were contradicted when, during the mid- and late-1970s, fertility rates began to decline rapidly. Predictions that food production would not keep up with population growth have also been proven wrong: between 1961 and 2000, calories per capita worldwide have increased by 24 percent, despite a doubling of the global population. The high rates of economic growth in East and Southeast Asia were also unforeseen by economists.
[JEL O10]