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Week 8 Measuring National Income

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Students who successfully complete this module will be able to:

  • Describe the contents ofmacroeconomics.
  • DefineGDP.
  • Explain the purpose of calculatingGDP
  • Explain the expenditure and income approach of GDPcalculation.
  • Differentiate between GDP andGNP
  • Identify the difference between nominal and real Gross Domestic Product (GDP)values.
  • Explain whether GDP is a goodindicator.
  • Introduction

National income is an uncertain term which is used interchangeably with national dividend, national output and national expenditure. On this basis, national income has been defined in a number of ways. In common parlance, national income means the total value of goods and services produced annually in a country.

In other words, the total amount of income accruing to a country from economic activities in a year’s time is known as national income. It includes payments made to all resources in the form of wages, interest, rent and profits.

The definitions of national income can be grouped into two classes: One, the traditional definitions advanced by Marshall, Pigou and Fisher; and two, modern definitions.

The Marshallian Definition:

According to Marshall: “The labour and capital of a country acting on its natural resources produce annually a certain net aggregate of commodities, material and immaterial including services of all kinds. This is the true net annual income or revenue of the country or national dividend.” In this definition, the word ‘net’ refers to deductions from the gross national income in respect of depreciation and wearing out of machines. And to this, must be added income from abroad.

It’s Defects:

Though the definition advanced by Marshall is simple and comprehensive, yet it suffers from a number of limitations. First, in the present day world, so varied and numerous are the goods and services produced that it is very difficult to have a correct estimation of them.

Consequently, the national income cannot be calculated correctly. Second, there always exists the fear of the mistake of double counting, and hence the national income cannot be correctly estimated. Double counting means that a particular commodity or service like raw material or labour, etc. might get included in the national income twice or more thantwice.

For example, a peasant sells wheat worth Rs.2000 to a flour mill which sells wheat flour to the wholesaler and the wholesaler sells it to the retailer who, in turn, sells it to the customers. If each time, this wheat or its flour is taken into consideration, it will work out to Rs.8000, whereas, in actuality, there is only an increase of Rs.2000 in the national income.

Third, it is again not possible to have a correct estimation of national income because many of the commodities produced are not marketed and the producer either keeps the produce for self- consumption or exchanges it for other commodities. It generally happens in an agriculture- oriented country like India. Thus the volume of national income isunderestimated.

The Pigouvian Definition:

A.C. Pigou has in his definition of national income included that income which can be measured in terms of money. In the words of Pigou, “National income is that part of objective income of the community, including of course income derived from abroad which can be measured in money.”

This definition is better than the Marshallian definition. It has proved to be more practical also. While calculating the national income now-a- days, estimates are prepared in accordance with the two criteria laid down in thisdefinition.

First, avoiding double counting, the goods and services which can be measured in money are included in national income. Second, income received on account of investment in foreign countries is included in national income.

It’s Defects:

The Pigouvian definition is precise, simple and practical but it is not free from criticism. First, in the light of the definition put forth by Pigou, we have to unnecessarily differentiate between commodities which can and which cannot be exchanged for money.

But, in actuality, there is no difference in the fundamental forms of such commodities, no matter they can be exchanged for money. Second, according to this definition when only such commodities as can be exchanged for money are included in estimation of national income, the national income cannot be correctly measured.

According to Pigou, a woman’s services as a nurse would be included in national income but excluded when she worked in the home to look after her children because she did not receive any salary for it. Similarly, Pigou is of the view that if a man marries his lady secretary, the national income diminishes as he has no longer to pay for her services.

Thus the Pigovian definition gives rise to a number of paradoxes. Third, the Pigovian definition is applicable only to the developed countries where goods and services are exchanged for money in the market.

According to this definition, in the backward and underdeveloped countries of the world, where a major portion of the produce is simply bartered, correct estimate of national income will not be possible, because it will always work out less than the real level of income. Thus the definition advanced by Pigou has a limited scope.

Fisher’s Definition:

Fisher adopted ‘consumption’ as the criterion of national income whereas Marshall and Pigou regarded it to be production. According to Fisher, “The National dividend or income consists solely of services as received by ultimate consumers, whether from their material or from the human environments. Thus, a piano, or an overcoat made for me this year is not a part of this year’s income, but an addition to the capital. Only the services rendered to me during this year by these things are income.”

Fisher’s definition is considered to be better than that of Marshall or Pigou, because Fisher’s definition provides an adequate concept of economic welfare which is dependent on consumption and consumption represents our standard of living.

It’s Defects:

But from the practical point of view, this definition is less useful, because there are certain difficulties in measuring the goods and services in terms of money. First, it is more difficult to estimate the money value of net consumption than that of net production.

In one country there are several individuals who consume a particular good and that too at different places and, therefore, it is very difficult to estimate their total consumption in terms of money. Second, certain consumption goods are durable and last for many years.

If we consider the example of piano or overcoat, as given by Fisher, only the services rendered for use during one year by them will be included in income. If an overcoat costs Rs. 100 and lasts for ten years, Fisher will take into account only Rs. 100 as national income during one year, whereas Marshall and Pigou will include Rs. 100 in the national income for the year, when it is made.

Besides, it cannot be said with certainty that the overcoat will last only for ten years. It may last longer or for a shorter period. Third, the durable goods generally keep changing hands leading to a change in their ownership and value too.

It, therefore, becomes difficult to measure in money the service-value of these goods from the point of view of consumption. For instance, the owner of a Maruti car sells it at a price higher than its real price and the purchaser after using it for a number of years further sells it at its actual price.

Now the question is as to which of its price, whether actual or black market one, should we take into account, and afterwards when it is transferred from one person to another, which of its value according to its average age should be included in national income?

But the definitions advanced by Marshall, Pigou and Fisher are not altogether flawless. However, the Marshallian and Pigovian definitions tell us of the reasons influencing economic welfare, whereas Fisher’s definition helps us compare economic welfare in different years.

Modern Definitions:

From the modern point of view, Simon Kuznets has defined national income as “the net output of commodities and services flowing during the year from the country’s productive system inthe hands of the ultimateconsumers.”

On the other hand, in one of the reports of United Nations, national income has been defined on the basis of the systems of estimating national income, as net national product, as addition to the shares of different factors, and as net national expenditure in a country in a year’s time. In practice, while estimating national income, any of these three definitions may be adopted, because the same national income would be derived, if different items were correctly included in the estimate.

A hypothetical government sector account is given below for purposes of illustration:

Income-Expenditure Account, (RM. in crores) Government Sector:


  1. Show how does Government expenditure raises equilibriumincome.
  2. What will happen if the Government stop imposingtaxes?
  3. Illustrate the income-expenditure account of hypothetical government sector.