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Nominal GDP vs. Real GDP: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 10, 2023
Nominal GDP values an economy's production at current prices; Real GDP adjusts for inflation, reflecting an economy's true growth.

Key Differences

Nominal GDP represents the total value of goods and services produced in a country within a specified period, typically a year, at the current market prices. On the other hand, Real GDP takes into consideration the price changes over the years, thereby accounting for inflation or deflation.
By using the current prices to measure the total output, Nominal GDP might present an inflated figure, especially in economies experiencing inflation. Real GDP, however, offers a more accurate depiction by removing the distorting effect of inflation on the total output.
Nominal GDP is a straightforward calculation, requiring no adjustments, making it easier to compute. In contrast, Real GDP requires the use of a base year or a deflator to adjust for price changes, presenting a clearer image of an economy's health and its actual growth rate.
While Nominal GDP can give a rapid snapshot of an economy's overall size and can be useful for year-to-year comparisons, Real GDP provides a deeper insight into the growth quality, allowing for comparisons over longer periods and between different economies.
It's crucial for policymakers and economists to consider both Nominal GDP and Real GDP. While the former gives immediate insights, the latter offers a long-term perspective on economic growth and well-being.

Comparison Chart


Values production at current prices
Values production adjusting for inflation

Impact of Inflation

Affected by inflation
Neutralizes the effects of inflation

Base Year

No specific base year
Uses a base year for price adjustments

Calculation Complexity

Requires adjustment using a deflator or base year


Immediate snapshot of the economy
Long-term economic health and growth comparisons

Nominal GDP and Real GDP Definitions

Nominal GDP

Nominal GDP measures a country's production based on current market prices.
If inflation rises and production remains constant, Nominal GDP will still increase.

Real GDP

Real GDP offers a clear picture of true economic growth.
An economy with a steady Real GDP growth rate indicates stable, actual growth.

Nominal GDP

Nominal GDP can be influenced by price changes.
Rapid inflation can cause Nominal GDP to appear larger than it truly is.

Real GDP

Real GDP measures a country's production while adjusting for inflation.
If the economy grows but inflation is high, Real GDP might show little to no growth.

Nominal GDP

Nominal GDP provides year-to-year economic comparisons.
A country's Nominal GDP growth can indicate its short-term economic trajectory.

Real GDP

Real GDP is valued at constant prices using a base year.
By using 2010 as a base year, the Real GDP for 2020 adjusts 2020's output to 2010 prices.

Nominal GDP

Nominal GDP offers a snapshot of the economy's size at a given time.
A surge in demand might lead to a spike in Nominal GDP.

Real GDP

Real GDP allows for comparisons across different time periods.
Comparing the Real GDP of the 1980s to the 2020s provides insight into genuine growth over decades.

Nominal GDP

Nominal GDP does not adjust for inflation or deflation.
Two countries might have similar Nominal GDPs, but different purchasing powers.

Real GDP

Real GDP neutralizes the distorting effects of inflation or deflation.
In a period of deflation, Real GDP can indicate if the economy is shrinking or if prices are just dropping.


Why is Real GDP important?

Real GDP adjusts for inflation, giving a true measure of an economy's growth and overall health.

How is Real GDP calculated?

Real GDP is derived by adjusting the Nominal GDP with a GDP deflator, which accounts for price changes since a base year.

Which GDP measure considers the base year prices?

Real GDP uses base year prices for its calculations.

What does Nominal GDP represent?

Nominal GDP represents the total value of goods and services produced at current market prices.

Can Nominal GDP be higher than Real GDP?

Yes, especially in periods of inflation where current prices might be higher than those of the base year.

Which GDP is used when discussing the size of an economy?

Nominal GDP is typically used to discuss the overall size of an economy.

Why do some economists prefer Real GDP?

Real GDP provides a more accurate representation of an economy's health by neutralizing inflation's effects.

What happens to Nominal GDP during hyperinflation?

During hyperinflation, Nominal GDP might soar due to rapidly rising prices, not actual growth.

Do all countries calculate Real GDP the same way?

The concept is consistent, but methodologies might slightly vary based on available data and chosen base year.

Why might Real GDP decrease?

Real GDP might decrease due to economic contraction, regardless of inflation rates.

Can a country have the same Nominal GDP and Real GDP?

Yes, in the absence of inflation or deflation, both GDP measures could be identical.

If a country's Nominal GDP is growing faster than its Real GDP, what might that indicate?

This could indicate that the country is experiencing inflation.

What's the "GDP deflator"?

It's a measure used to convert Nominal GDP into Real GDP, reflecting changes in price or inflation since the base year.

Why do we need two measures of GDP?

While Nominal GDP offers an immediate snapshot, Real GDP provides insight into actual growth, removing the effects of price changes.

Why might Nominal GDP increase?

Nominal GDP might increase due to genuine economic growth or because of inflation.

Can Real GDP be negative?

Yes, a negative Real GDP indicates economic contraction.

Is Nominal GDP a good indicator of people's living standards?

Not necessarily. For living standards, GDP per capita or Real GDP per capita is more indicative.

How often are GDP figures typically updated?

GDP figures are commonly updated quarterly and annually.

Which GDP measure is better for long-term analysis?

Real GDP is preferable for long-term analysis as it offers insights into true economic growth.

Does Real GDP account for population growth?

No, for that you'd use GDP per capita which divides GDP by the population.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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