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Perhaps this is difficult to measure and maybe not even a good metric for anything meaningful, but what was the GDP and GDP per capita for nations around the world immediately before World War II? Immediately after World War II?

Are there any good sources of GDP statistics, especially for the major combatants?

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Welcome to the site. Probably hard to measure, but certainly meaningful, because "discontent" over GDP was a cause of World War II. +1 for a "non-trivial" question. –  Tom Au Apr 27 '13 at 0:58
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I recommend WolframAlpha for this type of research. You can e.g. ask it for"gdp per capita germany since 1900" and you'll get plausible plots (based on data from vetted sources) in return. –  Drux Apr 27 '13 at 14:55
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@Drux. Thanks for the tip! I've only used Alpha for math. Unfortunately, Alpha's statistics only seem to go back to 1970. –  ChickenGod Apr 28 '13 at 0:38
    
©ChickenGod Ups, my mistake: I did not check the output carefully enough. –  Drux Apr 28 '13 at 5:35

3 Answers 3

The most comprehensive source for historical GDP per capita data is the Angus Maddison database. Here is the latest (Jan 2013) update: Excel file link.

I extract from this Maddison database 1930-1950 GDP per capita data for the major combatants: Google spreadsheet. I include only France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USSR, the USA, China, and Japan. No data for China, 1939-1949 and the USSR, 1941-1945.

Chart below:

enter image description here

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I know this is an old post but for some time I've wanted to revisit this topic, so I did some digging. It turns out OECD has a data table (2003. The World Economy: Historical Statistics (Paris: OECD)) that I've seen as a source in a paper from Berkeley and London School of Economics (http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/series/sfb-649-papers/2008-68/PDF/68.pdf). I'm guessing the source is reliable enough for most purposes.

Here is the link: http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/historical_statistics/horizontal-file_03-2007.xls

And for the people too lazy to make their own graph, here is the GDP per capita for the major powers. I left out China because although it was a big country involved in the war, I didn't want their low numbers to mess up the graph.

GDP per capita (1990 International Geary-Khamis dollars) '

Germany was indeed poorer than UK before the war but not far behind France.

I find it interesting how WW2 was detrimental to many of the economies on the short run but after a decade or two they all caught up to their trend lines.

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Interesting. From what I saw in the first linked paper, postwar (West) Germany went back to pretty close to Germany's prewar trendline. The UK on the other hand went back to ... Germany's prewar trendline. Likely a coincidence, but it kind of looks like like they became two parts of the same economy... –  T.E.D. Mar 31 at 21:29

By 1940 for the allies the national GDP figures were approximately (in dollars):

  • 27.51 billion of UK
  • 18.28 billion for france
  • 10 billion for the low countries
  • 41.97 billion of Germany
  • 8.68 billion for italy
  • 84.7 billion of the US

Source: http://historum.com/blogs/guaporense/994-economics-world-war-two.html

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If that's per person, those were some pretty darn rich people. –  T.E.D. Apr 29 '13 at 16:25
    
No, for the whole country –  clickonMe Apr 29 '13 at 16:29
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In that case, fixing your answer to say that. –  T.E.D. Apr 29 '13 at 17:39
    
@T.E.D. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total measurable output of country in a given year. The OP has mentioned that these are GDP figures which are never for individuals but for the entire country. –  Abbas Apr 1 at 12:28

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