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Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations

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  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

Abstract

We document an empirical relationship between the cross-country adoption of technologies and the degree of long-term historical relatedness between human populations. Historical relatedness is measured using genetic distance, a measure of the time since two populations’ last common ancestors. We find that the measure of human relatedness that is relevant to explain international technology diffusion is genetic distance relative to the world technological frontier (“relative frontier distance”). This evidence is consistent with long-term historical relatedness acting as a barrier to technology adoption: societies that are more distant from the technological frontier tend to face higher imitation costs. The results can help explain current differences in total factor productivity and income per capita across countries.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 8 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 11 - 46

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:intsma:doi:10.1086/663612

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  1. Spolaore, Enrico & Wacziarg, Romain, 2006. "The Diffusion of Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 5630, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Jan Fagerberg, 2003. "Innovation: A Guide to the Literature," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20031012, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
  3. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Endogenous Technological Change," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2135, David K. Levine.
  4. Alesina, Alberto, et al, 2003. " Fractionalization," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 155-94, June.
  5. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2008. "An Exploration of Technology Diffusion," Harvard Business School Working Papers 08-093, Harvard Business School.
  6. Diego Comin & William Easterly & Erick Gong, 2006. "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 B.C.?," NBER Working Papers 12657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2010. "Development Accounting," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 207-23, January.
  8. L. Rachel Ngai, 2003. "Barriers and the Transition to Modern Growth," CEP Discussion Papers dp0561, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  9. Barro, Robert J. & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1995. "Technological Diffusion, Convergence and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1255, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2006. "World Technology Usage Lags," NBER Working Papers 12677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2009. "The CHAT Dataset," Harvard Business School Working Papers 10-035, Harvard Business School.
  12. Diego A. Comin & Martí Mestieri, 2010. "An Intensive Exploration of Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 16379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2012. "How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?," NBER Working Papers 18130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2013. "Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0775, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  3. Enrico Spolaore, 2012. "The Economics of Political Borders," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0767, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  4. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Cultural Diversity, Geographical Isolation, and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-15, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  5. Campbell, Douglas L. & Pyun, Ju Hyun, 2011. "The Diffusion of Development: Along Genetic or Geographic Lines?," MPRA Paper 35178, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Ideen A. Riahi, 2013. "Colonization and Genetics of Comparative Development," Discussion Papers dp13-11, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, revised 29 Oct 2013.
  7. Sequeira, Tiago & Santos, Marcelo & Ferreira-Lopes, Alexandra, 2013. "Why Inventions Occurred in Some Countries and Not in Others?," MPRA Paper 51553, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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