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short essays and reports on the economic issues of the day
2002 ■ Number 16

Patricia S. Pollard
conomic growth in France was sluggish between
1994 and 1997, averaging 1.6 percent per year.
However, growth accelerated to 3.1 percent per year
between 1998 and 2001, spurred by a rise in business investment and domestic demand. Structural reforms and low
interest rates due to low inflation and fiscal improvements
are generally cited as factors responsible for the turnaround.
The turning point for the French economy, 1998, is also the
year France won the Fédération Internationale de Football
Association (FIFA) World Cup (football, of course, being
the nearly worldwide term for soccer). As the Financial
Times recently claimed, “the win inspired an optimism that
boosted France’s fledgling economic recovery.”1
Does the World Cup affect economic growth? Can the
country that wins the 2002 World Cup expect a boost to its
economy? Examining the previous ten World Cup winners
(1962 to 1998) provides mixed evidence. As shown in the
table, only four of these ten had an increase in the growth
rate of real GDP in the year of the championship (relative
to the growth rate in the previous year). Interestingly, these
were the four most recent winners.
Since the World Cup is held in the late second or early
third quarter, any effect on annual economic growth may
not be seen until the following year. Comparing the growth
rate of real GDP in the year of the World Cup victory with
the growth rate the next year indicates the following: four
of the six countries that did not see an acceleration in their
rate of economic growth in the year they won the World
Cup did experience a rise in the following year.
These results provide some support for an association
between a World Cup victory and a boost to economic
growth. However, all of the countries whose rate of economic growth accelerated in their championship year saw a
drop in their growth rate the following year. Does this imply
that any acceleration in growth is short-lived? Perhaps.
The last column in the table compares a country’s growth
rate of output in two four-year periods: (i) the year of the
previous World Cup to the year before their World Cup
victory with (ii) the year of their victory to the year prior


to the next World Cup (e.g., 1994-97 and 1998-2001 for
France). Half of the countries whose growth rates rose in
the championship year or the next year had a higher growth
rate in the four-year period following the World Cup victory
than in the previous four-year period.
But a country should consider this word of caution
before it invests in the development of a national football
program to raise its growth rate of output: Brazil, the
country with the most World Cup victories, has struggled
economically compared with a country such as South Korea,
which until this year had never won a World Cup game.
Real GDP per capita was $1,742 in Brazil in 1960 and $1,256
in South Korea. In 1999 real per capita GDP in Brazil was
less than half that in South Korea ($4,479 compared with
$12,086, respectively). Investment in physical and human
capital (education) in conjunction with sound economic
policies remains the most reliable means by which to raise
economic growth. ■
1 Minder,

Raphael. “French Despair As Soccer Team Meets Its Waterloo.”
Financial Times, 12 June 2002.

World Cup Winners and Economic Growth
Real GDP growth rate

Winning team

Same year

Next year



West Germany
West Germany







SOURCES: OECD (France and West Germany) and World Bank, World
Development Indicators (all other countries).

Views expressed do not necessarily reflect official positions of the Federal Reserve System.