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GDP is the Wrong Measure for Millennials

J. Mijin Cha
The fifth annual MetLife survey of American value ideals shows a significant shift from prioritizing achieving professional success and material wealth to having a greater sense of personal fulfillment, particularly among younger generations. Millennials preferred a sense of personal fulfillment over having enough money by a margin of 28-20. Nearly a third of Millennials surveyed thought it was more important to have close family and friends than a roof over their heads. And, they had the highest percentage of respondents who said achieving the American dream in their lifetime was important but did not look to traditional markers (like a house, getting married, etc.) to achieve it.
Yet, at the same time, our economic accounting systems cannot accurately depict this transition towards quality over quantity. Our main measure of economic welfare, the Gross Domestic Product, sees growth as the only indication of progress. If GDP goes up, indicating more economic output, the economy is doing well. If GDP goes down, policymakers and markets worldwide begin to worry. But, what is GDP really measuring?
A new report from Demos, Beyond GDP, addresses the shortcomings of GDP and challenges the way we measure our economic growth, and in turn our overall progress. Beyond GDP highlights the failure of GDP to accurately reflect the health of our economy by not counting many goods – such as at home child care, education, and volunteerism – and not counting many bads – such as the costs of pollution and the negative economic impact of income inequality.