Brian Arthur on the U.S’s “second economy” and its growth:
How fast is the second economy growing?
Here’s a very rough estimate. Since 1995, when digitization really started to kick in, labor productivity (output per hours worked) in the United States has grown at some 2.5 to 3 percent annually, with ups and downs along the way. No one knows precisely how much of this growth is due to the uses of information technology (some economists think that standard measurements underestimate this); but pretty good studies assign some 65 to 100 percent of productivity growth to digitization. Assume, then, that in the long term the second economy will be responsible for roughly a 2.4 percent annual increase in the productivity of the overall economy. If we hold the labor force constant, this means output grows at this rate, too. An economy that grows at 2.4 percent doubles every 30 years; so if things continue, in 2025 the second economy will be as large as the 1995 physical economy. The precise figures here can be disputed, but that misses the point. What’s important is that the second economy is not a small add-on to the physical economy. In two to three decades, it will surpass the physical economy in size.