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US economic growth in the gilded age

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  • Field, Alexander J.

Abstract

In the immediate postwar period, Moses Abramovitz and Robert Solow both examined data on output and input growth from the first half of the 20th century and reached similar conclusions. In the 20th century, in contrast with the nineteenth, a much smaller fraction of real output growth could be swept back to the growth of inputs conventionally measured. The rise of the residual, they suggested, was an important distinguishing feature of 20th century growth. This paper identifies two difficulties with this claim. First, TFP growth virtually disappeared in the US between 1973 and 1995. Second, TFP growth was in fact quite robust between the end of the Civil War and 1906, as was in fact acknowledged by Abramovitz in his 1993 Economic History Association Presidential address. Developing a revised macroeconomic narrative is essential in reconciling our interpretation of these numbers with what we know about scientific, technological, and organizational change during the gilded age.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 173-190

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:31:y:2009:i:1:p:173-190

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622617

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Keywords: Economic growth Productivity TFP Total factor productivity;

References

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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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  1. B. Zorina Khan & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2001. "The Early Development of Intellectual Property Institutions in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 233-246, Summer.
  2. Ruttan, Vernon W., 2006. "Is War Necessary for Economic Growth?: Military Procurement and Technology Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195188042.
  3. Abramovitz, Moses & David, Paul A, 1973. "Reinterpreting Economic Growth: Parables and Realities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 428-39, May.
  4. Alexander J. Field, 2007. "The origins of US total factor productivity growth in the golden age," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 1(1), pages 63-90, April.
  5. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "Appendices," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870, pages 177-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 347-372, June.
  7. Field, Alexander J., 1987. "Modern Business Enterprise as a Capital-Saving Innovation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(02), pages 473-485, June.
  8. Abramovitz, Moses, 1993. "The Search for the Sources of Growth: Areas of Ignorance, Old and New," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(02), pages 217-243, June.
  9. Moses Abramovitz, 1956. "Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870," NBER Chapters, in: Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870, pages 1-23 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number tost57-1, octubre-d.
  11. Field, Alexander J., 2006. "Technological Change and U.S. Productivity Growth in the Interwar Years," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(01), pages 203-236, March.
  12. Alexander J. Field, 2003. "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1399-1413, September.
  13. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, octubre-d.
  14. Robert J. Gordon, 1999. "U.S. Economic Growth since 1870: One Big Wave?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 123-128, May.
  15. Moses Abramovitz, 1956. "Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra56-1, octubre-d.
  16. Field, Alexander James, 1992. "The Magnetic Telegraph, Price and Quantity Data, and the New Management of Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 401-413, June.
  17. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "Sources and Methods," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870, pages 39-45 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. David, Paul A & Wright, Gavin, 1997. "Increasing Returns and the Genesis of American Resource Abundance," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 203-45, March.
  19. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  20. Field, Alexander J., 2007. "The equipment hypothesis and US economic growth," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 43-58, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Sharon Harrison & Mark Weder, 2009. "Technological Change and the Roaring Twenties: A Neoclassical Perspective," School of Economics Working Papers 2009-29, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
  2. Chu, Angus C. & Yang, C.C., 2012. "Fiscal centralization versus decentralization: Growth and welfare effects of spillovers, Leviathan taxation, and capital mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 177-188.

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