, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 251–275 | Cite as

Mismeasuring long-run growth: the bias from splicing national accounts—the case of Spain

  • Leandro Prados de la Escosura
Original Paper


Comparisons of economic performance over space and time largely depend on how statistical evidence from national accounts and historical estimates are spliced. To allow for changes in relative prices, GDP benchmark years in national accounts are periodically replaced with new and more recent ones. Thus, a homogeneous long-run GDP series requires linking different temporal segments of national accounts. The choice of the splicing procedure may result in substantial differences in GDP levels and growth, particularly as an economy undergoes deep structural transformation. An inadequate splicing may seriously bias the measurement of GDP levels and growth rates. Alternative splicing solutions are discussed in this paper for the particular case of Spain, a fast-growing country in the second half of the twentieth century. It is concluded that the usual linking procedure, retropolation, is seriously flawed as it tends to bias GDP levels upwards and, consequently, to underestimate growth rates, especially for developing countries experiencing structural change. An alternative interpolation procedure is proposed.


Growth measurement Splicing GDP Historical national accounts Spain 

JEL Classification

C82 E01 N13 O47 



Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the ‘Maddison Memorial Conference’, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, November 2010, and the International Economic History Association Congress, Helsinki, August 2006. I acknowledge participants and, especially, Bart van Ark and Albert Carreras for their remarks and suggestions. I have also benefited from exchanges with Ángel de la Fuente, Antonio Díaz Ballesteros, and David Taguas+.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad Carlos III de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.CEPRLondonUK

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