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The U.S. Productivity Slowdown: A Case of Statistical Myopia

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  • Michael R. Darby

Abstract

This paper identifies three major periods: 1900-1929, 1929-1965, and 1965-1978. In contrast to the middle period, the extreme periods are characterized by rapid growth in private employment and hours worked; because growth in private productivity increases by less, measured labor productivity growth falls compared to the middle period. However this fall reflects a substantial substitution of quantity for quality in labor force growth: after private employment and hours are adjusted for age, sex, immigration, and education, no difference is observed among the average quality-adjusted labor productivity growth rates. Substantial variation in these growth rates remains within the 1929-1965 and 1965-1978 periods. Slow quality-adjusted labor productivity growth during 1929-1948 is just offset by unusually rapid growth during 1948-1965; these variations are attributed to the near cessation of investment during the Depression and World War II and subsequent recovery of the capital-labor ratio. Thus no substantial variations in total factor productivity growth or technical progress is found. Variations inproductivity growth within 1965-1978 are explained by price-control induced biases in reported deflated output. Correction of these biases results inequal quality-adjusted labor productivity growth in 1965-1973 and 1973-1978.A substantial program of future research is proposed. A data appendix is included.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1018.

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Date of creation: Nov 1982
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Publication status: published as Darby, Michael R. "The U.S. Productivity Slowdown: A Case of Statistical Myopia." The American Economic Review, Vol. 74, No. 3, (June 1984), pp. 30 1-322.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1018

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Cited by:
  1. Burki, Abid A. & Terrell, Dek, 1998. "Measuring production efficiency of small firms in Pakistan," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 155-169, January.
  2. Boisso, Dale & Grosskopf, Shawna & Hayes, Kathy, 2000. "Productivity and efficiency in the US: effects of business cycles and public capital," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 663-681, December.
  3. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Marilynn B. Brewer, 1994. "Intellectual Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," NBER Working Papers 4653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fuess, Scott Jr. & Van den Berg, Hendrik, 1996. "Transactional activities and total factor productivity growth in Taiwan," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 635-650.
  5. Delorme, Charles Jr. & Thompson, Herbert Jr. & Warren, Ronald Jr., 1999. "Public Infrastructure and Private Productivity: A Stochastic-Frontier Approach," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 563-576, July.
  6. John A. Tatom, 1991. "The 1990 oil price hike in perspective," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 3-18.
  7. Fuess, Scott Jr. & van den Berg, Hendrik, 1995. "The impact of transactional activities on productivity growth in Canada, and a comparison with the United States," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 1-15.
  8. Palle S. Andersen, 1983. "The productivity slowdown and its policy implications," BIS Working Papers 8, Bank for International Settlements.

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