When trying to explain why productivity in the U.S. has decreased over the last decade, a common response focuses on the notion that the government statisticians must be measuring the benefits of Google and all the free stuff we can now access on our phones, tablets, and computers wrongly.

But a new research paper by Fed economists says free stuff like Facebook should not be counted in GDP, or in measures of productivity, because consumers do not pay for these services directly, reports Martin Neil Baily for Fortune.

The Fed economists argue that free services like Google are a form of “consumer surplus,” defined as the value consumers place on the things they buy that is over and above the price they have paid. Consumer surplus has never been included in past measures of GDP or productivity, they point out.

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