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What is an Economic Expansion?

Helen Akers
Helen Akers

An economic expansion is synonymous with the more common term economic growth. A country's economy is considered to be in an economic expansion when the gross domestic product (GDP) increases over a specific time period. Expansion also occurs when there is an increase in the GDP per capita over a certain time frame. GDP per capita is simply the full GDP amount divided by the total population.

GDP is a country's output of goods and services within a specified time period. It can be thought of as the market value or price for which the aggregate of goods and services could be sold. GDP is comprised of four different components: consumption, investment, government purchases, and net exports.

Consumption refers to the amount that is spent on goods and services within an economy.
Consumption refers to the amount that is spent on goods and services within an economy.

Consumption refers to the amount that is spent on goods and services within an economy. It is the largest component of GDP and is sometimes referred to as consumer spending by economic analysts. An increase in consumer spending is often an indicator of a potential economic expansion.

The investment component of GDP consists of a government's fixed assets and inventory increases. An example of an inventory increase might be a fleet of recently purchased military planes. A government's fixed assets might include buildings used for housing political figures.

Government purchases are the amount of expenditures minus the amount of transfer payments. Transfer payments consist of unemployment payments or subsidized housing payments. Government purchases will often be increased as a way to stimulate an economic expansion if consumer spending is slowing.

Net exports can be thought of as a country's exports minus its imports. The monetary value of the goods and services a country produces and sells is subtracted from the amount of goods and services it purchases. The imports are subtracted in order to reflect the true definition of GDP, which is the monetary value of a country's output.

When an increase in GDP occurs, a country's overall standard of living increases as well. A standard of living increase is not only an indicator of an economic expansion, but a goal in itself. In terms of macroeconomic activity, an economic expansion is highly desired by most governments. Economic growth allows a government increased flexibility in meeting the needs of its society.

Growth occurs either naturally or through government stimulation. If a country's people have adequate financial resources and perceive their individual financial status as stable, they are more likely to spend more. Sometimes referred to as consumer confidence, buying and spending patterns for the general population are often dictated by their average income and their perceptions regarding the immediate financial future. If many fear a risk of job loss, overall spending may decrease. On the other hand, when many anticipate increases in salary or more lucrative job opportunities, overall spending may increase.

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Discussion Comments


Economy is a difficult thing to predict. When an economy comes out of a recession recently, it is expected that GDP and expansion will rise because people will spend more money and production will also increase. But it doesn't always work that way.

Sometimes, society is wary of economic troubles and when an increase in income occurs, decides to save that instead of spending it. So the economy doesn't expand as economists expect it to. Instead, the stagnation lasts longer.

As far as I understand, the economy is basically a reflection of how much trust society has in it. Political and social events impact people's trust in the economy and this slows down expansion.


@ZipLine-- Of course not. An economy cannot expand indefinitely because expansion has certain consequences such as the rise of inflation. Higher inflation will result in higher prices and this will cause the growth to slow down. So an economy cannot continue to grow and expand at high rates for a very long time.

Economic expansion has a positive effect up to a certain point. After that point, the negative consequences like the ones I described start to kick in.


Is it possible for economies to expand indefinitely?

Nations seen to fear slow economic growth and expansion the most. There is this constant competition to increase GDP and growth rate. But it doesn't seem realistic to me. I don't think that any economy can keep growing at a very high rate. There has to be a limit to the expansion.

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    • Consumption refers to the amount that is spent on goods and services within an economy.
      By: Kenishirotie
      Consumption refers to the amount that is spent on goods and services within an economy.