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Five Puzzles in the Behavior of Productivity, Investment, and Innovation

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  • Robert J. Gordon

Abstract

(1) Whatever happened to the cyclical effect? Skeptics were justified on the basis of data through the end of 1999 in their claim that part of the post-1995 productivity growth revival reflected the normal cyclical correlation between productivity and output growth. In contrast data through mid-2003 reveal only a negligible cyclical effect for 1995-99 but rather a temporary bubble in 2002-03. (2) Why did productivity growth accelerate after 2000 when the ICT investment boom was collapsing? The most persuasive argument points to unusually savage corporate cost-cutting and hidden intangible investments in the late 1990s that provided productivity benefits after 2000. (3) The steady decline in the price of computer power implies steady technical progress, but then why did computers produce so little productivity growth before 1995 and so much afterwards? We draw an analogy to electricity, where miniaturization was the key step in making small electric motors practicable, and the internal combustion engine, where complementary investments, especially roads, were necessary to reap benefits. (4) What does the collapse of the investment boom imply about the future of innovation? First-rate inventions in the 1990s, notably the web and user-friendly business productivity software, are being followed by second-rate inventions in the current decade. (5) Finally, why did productivity growth slow down in Europe but accelerate in the U. S.? A consensus is emerging that U. S. institutions foster creative destruction and financial markets that welcome innovation, while Europe remains under the control of corporatist institutions that dampen competition and inhibit new entry. Further, Europe lacks a youth culture like that of the U. S. which fosters independence: U. S. teenagers work after school and college students must work to pay for much of their educational expense. There is a chasm of values across the Atlantic.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10660.

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Date of creation: Aug 2004
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Publication status: published as Lopez-Claros, Augusto and Xavier Sala-i-Martin (eds.) The Global Competitiveness Report 2003-04. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10660

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  1. C.J. Krizan & John Haltiwanger & Lucia Foster, 2002. "The Link Between Aggregate and Micro Productivity Growth: Evidence from Retail Trade," Working Papers 02-18, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, 2005. "Early Twentieth Century Productivity Growth Dynamics: An Inquiry into the Economic History of “Our Ignorance”," Macroeconomics 0502023, EconWPA.
  3. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00289168 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. repec:hal:cepnwp:halshs-00289168 is not listed on IDEAS
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Cited by:
  1. Dostie, Benoit & Trépanier, Mathieu, 2005. "Returns to Computer Use and Organizational Practices of the Firm," IZA Discussion Papers 1541, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Bas Jacobs & Jules Theeuwes, 2005. "Innovation in the Netherlands: the Market Falters and the Government Fails," De Economist, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 107-124, December.
  3. Andrea Bonaccorsi & Lucia Piscitello & Cristina Rossi, 2005. "Explaining The Territorial Adoption Of New Technologies - A Spatial Econometric Approach," ERSA conference papers ersa05p92, European Regional Science Association.
  4. Shahid Yusuf & Kaoru Nabeshima & Shoichi Yamashita, 2008. "Growing Industrial Clusters in Asia : Serendipity and Science," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6429, October.
  5. Raquel Ortega-Argilés & Mariacristina Piva & Marco Vivarelli, 2012. "The transatlantic productivity gap: Is R&D the main culprit?," DISCE - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Sociali dises1284, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
  6. Jochen Hartwig, 2005. "Messprobleme bei der Ermittlung des Wachstums der Arbeitsproduktivität – dargestellt anhand eines Vergleichs der Schweiz mit den USA," KOF Working papers 05-100, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  7. Rochelle M. Edge & Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2004. "Learning and shifts in long-run productivity growth," Working Paper Series 2004-04, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  8. Jinghai Zheng & Angang Hu & Arne Bigsten, 2009. "Potential output in a rapidly developing economy: the case of China and a comparison with the United States and the European Union," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 317-342.
  9. Harold Creusen & Björn Vroomen & Henry van der Wiel & Fred Kuypers, 2006. "Dutch retail trade on the rise? Relation between competition, innovation and productivity," CPB Document 137, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  10. Raquel Ortega-Argilés, 2012. "The Transatlantic Productivity Gap: A Survey Of The Main Causes," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(3), pages 395-419, 07.
  11. Chellaraj, Gnanaraj & Maskus, Keith E. & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2005. "The contribution of skilled immigration and international graduate students to U.S. innovation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3588, The World Bank.
  12. Mattalia, Claudio, 2013. "Embodied technological change and technological revolution: Which sectors matter?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 249-264.
  13. Jerzmanowski, Michal & Nabar, Malhar, 2008. "The welfare consequences of irrational exuberance: Stock market booms, research investment, and productivity," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 111-133, March.
  14. Alessandro Rebucci & Nicoletta Batini & Pietro Cova & Massimiliano Pisani, 2009. "Global Imbalances," IMF Working Papers 09/63, International Monetary Fund.
  15. Theodore M. Mitrakos & Georgios Th Simigiannis & Panagiota G. Tzamourani, 2005. "Indebtedness of Greek households: evidence from a survey," Economic Bulletin, Bank of Greece, Economic Research Department, issue 25, pages 13-35, AUgust.

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