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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. repec:hal:cepnwp:halshs-00289168 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C.J. Krizan, 2002. "The Link Between Aggregate and Micro Productivity Growth: Evidence from Retail Trade," NBER Working Papers 9120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, 2005. "Early Twentieth Century Productivity Growth Dynamics: An Inquiry into the Economic History of “Our Ignorance”," Macroeconomics 0502023, EconWPA.
  4. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00289168 is not listed on IDEAS
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Cited by:
  1. Jochen Hartwig, 2006. "Messprobleme bei der Ermittlung des Wachstums der Arbeitsproduktivitaet - dargestellt anhand eines Vergleichs der Schweiz mit den USA," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics, vol. 226(4), pages 418-435, July.
  2. 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).
  3. Mattalia, Claudio, 2013. "Embodied technological change and technological revolution: Which sectors matter?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 249-264.
  4. Rochelle M. Edge & Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2004. "Learning and shifts in long-run productivity growth," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-21, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. 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.
  6. Ortega-Argilés, Raquel & Piva, Mariacristina & Vivarelli, Marco, 2011. "The Transatlantic Productivity Gap: Is R&D the Main Culprit?," IZA Discussion Papers 5586, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Massimiliano Pisani & Pietro Cova & Alessandro Rebucci, 2009. "Global Imbalances," IMF Working Papers 09/64, International Monetary Fund.
  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. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Shahid Yusuf & Kaoru Nabeshima & Shoichi Yamashita, 2008. "Growing Industrial Clusters in Asia : Serendipity and Science," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6429.

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