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A road in rural Indonesia.
Reuters/Antara Foto Agency
Traveling a nearly straight road.
NOT STANDARDLY DEVIATING

Indonesia has the least volatile economy of the 21st century

By Dan Kopf

A good proxy for the overall stability of a country is the consistency of its economic growth. It captures various factors that may lead to upheaval like war, financial crises, and political uncertainty.

Using data from the World Bank, we measured the economic volatility of nearly every country’s economic growth from 2001 to 2017 by calculating the standard deviation of its annual per-capital real-GDP growth. A higher standard deviation 1 means more volatility. For instance, if a country’s growth was 10% one year and then -5% the next, that would lead to a higher standard deviation than a country that grew 2% each year, even though both cumulatively grew about the same over the period.

1
Mathematically, the standard deviation is the square root of the sum of squared differences between the each year's growth and the average annual growth over the time period.

The GDP growth numbers that government report are not always accurate—as countries have political reasons to make them higher or smooth them out.