Many have compared today’s economic recovery to the slow, stagnant growth Americans lived through in the 1970s. I argue there’s at least one significant difference: Four decades ago, the world couldn’t depend on emerging market growth like it can today.
Take a look at Macquarie Research’s chart comparing industrial production (IP) following the 1970s with the output after the downturn in late 2008. The output during the mid-1970s and today’s cycle looks very similar over the first two years. The decline experienced around the 31-month mark today also mirrors the drop of the 1970s.

Global Industrial Production Rising Without Much Momentum from Advanced Economies

However, in 2011, advanced economies fell quicker and steeper than the IP in the 1970s. For the developed markets, the U.S. and Japan have had to bear the extra weight to make up for the lack of the European Union’s output. After the earthquake in 2011, Japan’s IP fell to a low of 90 but quickly recovered. In the chart, you can see that the combined current cycle of advanced economies has remained pretty stagnant following its trough.
Emerging markets came to the global rescue, with “Asia powering global growth,” says Macquarie. Over the past year, the world IP has crept higher than the output during the 1970s. “The emerging world continues to gain share of industrial activity, and continues to grow at rapid rates to keep global growth rates close to a healthy 4 percent year over year rate,” says Macquarie.
Back in the 1970s, emerging markets such as China and Russia had no global footprint and were isolationists. China was just beginning to build its modern economy. The world population back then was 4 billion; today it’s 7 billion. As millions of people in emerging countries are expected to move to urban communities in the coming decade, their governments have been pursuing policies that emulate America and promote growth.
Also read: China—The Great Stabilizer
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