R&D in the National Income and Product Accounts: A First Look at its Effect on GDP (PDF)

According to the estimates in this paper, R&D is a significant contributor to economic growth. Over the forty-year period studied, 1961-2000, returns to R&D capital accounted for 10 percent of growth in real GDP. Treating R&D as an investment raises the national savings rate by two percentage points from 19 to 21 percent.

This paper is a preliminary and exploratory examination of the role of R&D in the U.S. economy. It extends the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) framework by treating R&D as an investment and imputing a net return to general government capital. Capitalizing R&D investment has a small positive effect on the rate of growth of GDP. There is a significant effect on the distribution of consumption and investment on the product-side and the distribution of property-type income and labor income on the income-side. Most importantly, the partial R&D satellite account developed in this paper increases our understanding of the sources of economic growth.

Barbara M. Fraumeni and Sumiye Okubo