Maddison Project

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This article is about an economic statistics project. View a list of all economic statistics projects

The Maddison Project, also known as the Maddison Historical Statistics Project, is a project to collate historical economic statistics, such as GDP, GDP per capita, and labor productivity.[1][2][3] It was launched in March 2010 to continue the work of the late economic historian Angus Maddison. The project is under the Groningen Growth and Development Centre at the University of Groningen,[2] which also hosts the Penn World Table, another economic statistics project.[4]


Item Value
Start date March 2010 for the explicit Maddison Project[1]
1960s for the original work by Angus Maddison that was the genesis of the project.[5]:3
Data versioning Only one update released as Maddison Project, published January 2013 with data till 2010.[5]
Possibly multiple versions published by Angus Maddison.
Focus Historical: identify general ballparks and trends in living standards and economic growth over long time periods.
Provide better insight into the timeline of the Great Divergence between Western Europe and other regions that were historically similarly situated, such as China and India.

Data description

The only update released by the Maddison Project was published in January 2013, with data till 2010.[5] The underlying data is available as an Excel spreadsheet.[6]

Data dimensions and metrics

The data presented in the Maddison Project database is a partial function where:

  • The inputs (the dimensions) are country and year.
  • The only output (the metric) is real GDP per capita, expressed in 1990 international Geary–Khamis dollars. For simplicity, we will refer to this as GDP per capita.

Year dimension

The Maddison project database includes data until and including the year 2010. While calendar years are the finest granularity at which data is presented, not all calendar years have data. Here is a description of how the granularity changes over time.[6]

  • For all years from 1800 to 2010, GDP per capita estimates are present for at least one country. Countries with continuous data since 1800 include Sweden, England, and Centre-North Italy.
  • Between 1700 and 1800, GDP per capita estimates are present at multiples of 25: the years 1700, 1725, 1750, 1775, and 1800.
  • Between 1400 and 1700, GDP per capita estimates are present at multiples of 50: 1400, 1450, 1500, 1550, 1600, 1650, 1700.
  • Before 1400, estimates are present for the years: 1, 730, 1000, 1150, 1280, 1300, 1348.

Country dimension

The country dimension includes most modern countries, but also includes historical countries (such as the former USSR) and regions within countries (such as centre-north Italy) for which it is easier to get historical data than their modern country equivalents. The working paper says:[5]

A related issue is that historical estimates often refer to different territorial entities than the countries within the borders of 1990, the basic unit of account used in the Maddison framework. He made many corrections for (minor) changes in borders (an overview will be provided in future work). However, moving back in time sometimes means that we have only estimates for Northern Italy (instead of Italy as a whole), for Holland (Netherlands) or for the Cape Colony (South Africa). When those smaller regions represented less than two-third of the population and/or the GDP of the modern country (within current borders), we have presented the estimates in italics to warn users.

In addition, data is also presented on aggregate regions (such as Western Europe) and the whole world. Data on aggregate regions and former countries is presented in bold.

GDP per capita metric

The metric is real GDP per capita, expressed in 1990 international Geary–Khamis dollars.

Other information

As mentioned in connection with the country dimension, italics and bold are used for some cells.

Notes are added for some estimates, that are visible by hovering over the cell in spreadsheet software. A triangle at the top right of a cell indicates that there are notes for that cell.

Although the estimates should be color-coded see #Accuracy and precision), this color-coding does not seem to show up in Google Sheets or Mac's Numbers software (it might show up only in Excel).



Data is not present for every combination of country and year. This could be because of the absence of reliable sources that could be used to construct the data.

Data on former countries continues to be calculated for years after that country ceases to exist as a geopolitical entity.

Accuracy and precision

Data is fairly inaccurate and imprecise, with the accuracy and precision getting worse the farther back in time we go, and also varying significantly across geographical regions. However, the database does not provide error bars or any other quantification of uncertainty.

The working paper identifies four types of estimates in roughly decreasing order of reliability, along with the color coding that should show up in the database.[5] Unfortunately, the color coding does not seem to show up in Mac's Numbers or in Google Sheets.[6]

Rank Type of estimate Color coding in database
1 official estimates of GDP, made by national statistical offices or by international agencies (UN, for example) black
2 historical estimates based on the same methods and broad range of data blue
3 historical estimates based on indirect proxy variables orange
4 guesstimates red


Person Affiliation Qualification Opinion
Branko Milanović[3] World Bank Development economist Only source for long-run national GDPs going back to 1920s
Also, differing conclusions about Chinese GDP and growth rates due to higher estimates of their price levels
Morten Jerven[7] Norwegian University of Life Sciences Development economist One of three main sources of GDP numbers
Bill Gates[8] Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Smart well-read person Mostly echoes Jerven
Paul Krugman[9] New York Times Economist, columnist Data source for historical debt, growth, and labor output and productivity data.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Maddison Project". Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Database". Groningen Growth and Development Centre. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Milanović, Branko (July 19, 2013). "The end of a long era". World Bank. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  4. "The Database. Penn World Table version 9.0". Groningen Growth and Development Centre. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Bolt, Jutta; van Zanden, Jan Luiten (January 2013). "The First Update of the Maddison Project Re-Estimating Growth Before 1820" (PDF). Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Maddison Project Database". January 1, 2013. Retrieved October 5, 2017. 
  7. Jerven, Morten. "Why Do GDP Growth Rates Differ?". Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  8. Gates, Bill (May 8, 2013). "Bill Gates: how GDP understates economic growth. GDP may be an inaccurate indicator in sub-Saharan Africa, which is a concern for those who want to use statistics to help the world's poorest people". The Guardian. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 
  9. Krugman, Paul (April 26, 2013). "Debt and Growth Data". New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2017. 

External links