foreign aid

econ 101

A Special Joe Primer

If you get foggy at the mention of interest rates, or bleary-eyed while trying to wade through an article in the Wall Street Journal, we've written this page for you: a bare-bone primer on the major numbers economists throw around.


GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the most common number used to show how large – and also how strong - a nation's economy is. It is the dollar value of all goods and services a nation produces, including those produced abroad. Sometimes you'll see GDP per capita – or person – to show how comparatively rich or poor a nation is. GDP growth tells how fast an economy is growing, which – for many economists – is the ultimate sign of a healthy economy.

GDP: $14.4 trillion (2008)  BEA

The current GDP (as of the 2nd Quarter of 2009) is estimated to be $14.4 trillion.

GDP growth over the years

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foreign aid


Aid to developing nations is seen as a moral good by some and a foolhardy mission by others. Since the popular view is "Aid = Good", the US usually gets a lot of flack about its foreign aid record. But statistics commonly cited in the mainstream media don't always show the whole picture on how much the U.S. gives. Below we try to lay out the competing data – and let you decide how stingy or generous we are.

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