Economic growth can be defined as the increase or improvement in the inflation-adjusted market value of the goods and services produced by an economy over a certain period of time. Statisticians conventionally measure such growth as the percent rate of increase in the real gross domestic product, or real GDP.
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Growth is usually calculated in real terms – i.e., inflation-adjusted terms – to eliminate the distorting effect of inflation on the prices of goods produced. Measurement of economic growth uses national income accounting. Since economic growth is measured as the annual percent change of gross domestic product (GDP), it has all the advantages and drawbacks of that measure. The economic growth-rates of countries are commonly compared using the ratio of the GDP to population (per-capita income).
The "rate of economic growth" refers to the geometric annual rate of growth in GDP between the first and the last year over a period of time. This growth rate represents the trend in the average level of GDP over the period, and ignores any fluctuations in the GDP around this trend.
Economists refer to an increase in economic growth caused by more efficient use of inputs (increased productivity of labor, of physical capital, of energy or of materials) as intensive growth. In contrast, GDP growth caused only by increases in the amount of inputs available for use (increased population, for example, or new territory) counts as extensive growth.