The point was made by Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the U.S. president, in his famous speech of March 1968: the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country measures everything except what makes life worthwhile. Even if scholars agree that the wellbeing of a nation cannot be fully described by its GDP, there is a lot to be learned from this indicator. We present new estimates of Italy’s GDP covering the whole 150-year history of unified Italy, and show how and when Italy succeeded in reaching the standards of the other advanced economies. New regional GDP estimates show a spectacular rise of territorial imbalances: in the entire history of Italy, economic convergence has been the exception rather than the rule. The last twenty-five years have seen per-capita GDP stop growing, while economic inequalities and poverty indicators have started to rise. How serious is the prospect of Italy’s economic decline?
Keywords: Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Economic decline, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), System of National Accounts, (North–South divide), Regional inequality, Industrialization, Economic miracle, Living standards, Economic convergence
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