# Dimensional Analysis - Percentages and Derivatives

Percentages and Derivatives

Percentages are dimensionless quantities, since they are ratios of two quantities with the same dimensions.

Derivatives with respect to a quantity add the dimensions of the variable one is differentiating with respect to on the denominator. Thus:

• position (x) has units of L (Length);
• derivative of position with respect to time (dx/dt, velocity) has units of L/T – Length from position, Time from the derivative;
• the second derivative (d2x/dt2, acceleration) has units of L/T2.

In economics, one distinguishes between stocks and flows: a stock has units of "units" (say, widgets or dollars), while a flow is a derivative of a stock, and has units of "units/time" (say, dollars/year).

In some contexts, dimensional quantities are expressed as dimensionless quantities or percentages by omitting some dimensions. For example, Debt to GDP ratios are generally expressed as percentages: total debt outstanding (dimension of Currency) divided by annual GDP (dimension of Currency) – but one may argue that in comparing a stock to a flow, annual GDP should have dimensions of Currency/Time (Dollars/Year, for instance), and thus Debt to GDP should have units of years.