Transportation Economic Trends

Contribution of Transportation to the Economy: 

Transportation Economic Concepts

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-Kurt Vonnegut
This page highlights transportation economic concepts related to the contribution of transportation to the economy.

What is Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?

GDP is the sum of the value of all goods and services produced in the economy. It can be measured from three perspectives:
  • Expenditure approach: Sum of all expenditures on final goods and services, including: personal consumption, government spending and investment, change in private inventories, and exports less imports.
  • Production (value-added) approach: Total industry output (sales and other operating income) less the cost of inputs used in production. Alternatively, the sum of employee compensation, taxes on production and imports less subsidies, and gross operating surplus.
  • Income approach: Income earned by households (wages, health retirement benefits, interest income, etc.) and firms (profits including royalties from intellectual property rights, etc.)

Transportation-related final demand

Transportation-Related Final Demand measures the contribution of transportation services to the economy using the expenditure approach. It is the sum of all expenditures on final goods and services, including:
  • personal consumption expenditures on transportation-related goods and services (motor vehicles and parts; motor vehicle fuels, lubricants, and fluids; and transportation services);
  • private domestic investment in transportation structures and equipment;
  • government purchases of transportation goods and services;
  • net exports (exports minus imports) related to transportation goods and services; and
  • change in retailers’ inventories of motor vehicles and parts.
For data on total transportation-related expenditures, see Measuring Transportation's Contribution to the Economy.

Transportation value-added           

Transportation Value-Added measures the contribution of transportation services to the economy using the production (value-added) approach. It equals sales, or receipts, and other operating income from transportation services (gross output) less the goods and services used in production (intermediate inputs).
For data on the value-added by transportation, see Contribution of Transportation Services to the Economy.

Income attributed to transportation

Income attributed to transportation measures the income generated from the production of transportation goods and services. Data are not available in sufficient detail to measure the contribution of transportation to the economy using this approach.

What are the Transportation Satellite Accounts?

Satellite industry accounts expand on the national income and product (NIPA) accounts and the input-output (I-O) accounts and supplement these accounts by focusing on one aspect of economic activity. The NIPA and I-O accounts are two of the three U.S. national accounts (the third are the financial accounts of the U.S.). The NIPA accounts present the present the value and composition of national output. The I-O Accounts show the inputs each industry uses to produce output, the type of output produced by each industry, and the types of products purchased by final consumers.  
The Transportation Satellite Accounts (TSAs) expand upon the I-O accounts. The I-O accounts capture the contribution of for-hire transportation. The TSAs build on the I-O accounts to additionally capture transportation activities carried out by non-transportation industries for their own purposes (in-house transportation) and transportation activities carried out by households using a household vehicle (household transportation)—neither of which the I-O accounts measure.
For data from the Transportation Satellite Accounts, see Contribution of Transportation Services to the Economy.

What is for-hire transportation?    

For-hire transportation consists of the air, rail, truck, passenger and ground transportation, pipeline, and other support services provided by transportation firms such as railroads, transit agencies, trucking companies, and pipelines, to industries and the public on a fee basis.

What is in-house transportation? 

In-house transportation consists of air, rail, water, and truck services produced by businesses for their own use—for example, a baker’s delivery truck. Business in-house transportation includes privately owned and operated vehicles of all body types, used primarily on public rights of way, and the support services to store, maintain, and operate those vehicles.

What is household transportation?

Household transportation covers transportation provided by households for their own use using a vehicle, measured by the depreciation cost associated with household ownership of motor vehicles. The time that households spend operating a private motor vehicle for personal use is not included in the Transportation Satellite Accounts (see above), because it is outside the scope of the U.S. Input-Output (I-O) accounts on which the TSAs are built. The I-O accounts, by design, do not include unpaid labor, volunteer work, and other non-market production.

Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.
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