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Present models of economic growth primarily focus on the role of expenditures as captured in the commonly cited economic indicator, gross domestic product (GDP), where GDP is defined as the sum of final goods and services sold within a country’s natural borders. Noting that a country’s expenditures are referred to as “aggregate expenditures” and that the majority of spending is specific to consumption or consumer spending, especially in the United States where this spending category is nearly two-thirds of annual GDP (other expenditure categories for GDP include investment spending, government spending and foreign spending as proxied by net exports), there exists a significant relationship between consumer expenditures and macroeconomic growth, justifying the standard acceptance of consumption-based expenditures as being a significant driver of economic expansion. Given the consumption and growth relationship, consumption values and behaviors have a significant impact on economic outcomes as well as other parameters including the environment and social and economic equity, where the latter are defined as relating to disparities between groups within a country, as well as across countries. Following a discussion of the impact of consumer-led growth on sustainability parameters: the environment, economic and social equity, this paper provides an explicit linkage between the measure of economic progress in universal use, GDP, and the degradation to common global resources, connecting the endogeneity present between the modeling of economic growth and the values and behaviors that support the outcome of the very same growth. A discussion of the present teaching methods specific to introductory macroeconomics provides the foundation for an innovative, replicable, and grant-funded case study for introducing sustainability. The curriculum variants discussed are not in widespread use and at present, there are no standard textbooks for the instruction of Principles of Macroeconomics that explicitly include sustainability and provide sustainability-based economic parameters for alternative evaluation to standard economic growth as presently and singularly enumerated in GDP. The value-augmenting outcome of the sustainability inclusive curriculum case study is captured in a qualitative assessment of student reaction and absorption of sustainability as a value and behavior catalyst and provided in summary form.

Original Citation

Venkatesan, M. (2015). Sustainability in the Curriculum and Teaching of Economics: Transforming Introductory Macroeconomics. American Journal of Educational Research, 3(1), 5-9 Available online at