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A SUNDAY IN DECEMBER : The U.S. and Japan--Then And Now

December 03, 1991

In the last full year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Asian nation was clearly an economic David to the U.S. Goliath. It had about half the U.S. population, but its economy as measured by its Gross National Product was less than one-tenth as large as America's. On a per capita basis, the U.S. economy was six times larger than Japan's.

But by last year, Japan's economy was half the size of America's--and only slightly behind on a per capita basis. Per capita personal income in Japan exceeded the U.S. figure, and compared with the small deficit it ran in bilateral trade with the United States in 1940, Japan had built a $51 billion surplus.

Some comparisons:

1940 1990 UNITED STATES Population 131.7 million 248.7 million Pop. per sq. mile 44.2 70.3 Average annual earnings $1,443 (1941) $25,758 (1989) GNP $99.7 billion $5.47 trillion Per capita GNP $754 $21,994 Per capita personal income $593 $18,691 Exports to Japan $227 million $48.6 billion Passenger vehicle production (units) 3.7 million 6.1 million JAPAN Population 71.9 million 124.2 million Pop. per sq. mile 492 851 Average annual earnings $138 (1936) $29,500 GNP $9.27 billion $2.52 trillion Per capita GNP $128 $20,405 Per capita personal income N/A $21,020 Exports to U.S. $158 million $89.7 billion Passenger vehicle production (units) 23,525 9 9 million

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