“U.S. Cost of Violence Surpasses 15% of GDP”

On the eve of the International Day of Peace (Sept. 21), the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has released a report detailing how much of the U.S. economy is related to either preventing or dealing with the consequences of violence.

The report conservatively estimates that in 2010, 15% of GDP or US$15,000 per taxpayer was spent on containing violence. This is the equivalent of 1 out of every 7 dollars spent in the U.S.

The study is stated to be the first systematic measure to account for all violence-related expenditure in the U.S. economy. It captures government, corporate, and individual expenditure regardless of whether it is related to international affairs, such as offshore military activities, or domestic spending, for instance, dealing with crime and its consequences.

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“By defining a new industry as the ‘Violence Containment Industry,’ it is now possible to aggregate all expenditures related to the containment or consequences of violence. Our research indicates that when measured as a percentage of GDP this industry has expanded by 25% in the past ten years,” stated Steve Killelea, executive chairman of IEP.

U.S. Cost of Violence

The U.S. spent an estimated $2.16 trillion on violence containment in 2010, equivalent to the 6th largest GDP in the world (excluding the U.S.). Violence containment spending includes public and private expenditure related to the consequences or prevention of violence. Source: Institute for Economics and Peace

The report shows that if the $2.16 trillion of Violence Containment spending were represented as a discrete industry, it would be the largest industry in the United States economy, larger than construction, real estate, professional services, or manufacturing.

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The study accounts for all expenditure that is related to violence, such as medical expenses, incarceration, police, the military, insurance, homeland security, and the private security industry.

Expenditure is also divided by local ($154 billion), state ($101 billion), and federal ($1,305 billion) government as well as private spending by corporations, households, and individuals ($602 billion).

A 5% reduction in Violence Containment spending for 5 years would provide $326 billion. This would exceed the capital needed to rebuild the nation’s levees systems, update the energy infrastructure, and complete the upgrading of the nation’s school infrastructure.

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The American Society of Civil Engineers is currently estimating a $134 billion shortfall for the above infrastructure development, according to IEP.

“The study clearly demonstrates that even small reductions in violence and the spending associated with it would result in a meaningful stimulation to the U.S. economy,” concluded Mr. Killelea.

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) is an international non-profit research organization dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress. For more info: www.economicsandpeace.org.

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