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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

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17271.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Publication status: published as Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2012. "Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations," NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 11 - 46.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17271

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  1. Barro, Robert J. & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1995. "Technological Diffusion, Convergence and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 1255, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2009. "The Diffusion of Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 469-529, May.
  3. Diego Comin & Bart Hobiijn, 2006. "An Exploration of Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 12314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Diego Comin & William Easterly & Erick Gong, 2010. "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 65-97, July.
  5. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2009. "The CHAT Dataset," Harvard Business School Working Papers, Harvard Business School 10-035, Harvard Business School.
  6. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ngai, L. Rachel, 2004. "Barriers and the transition to modern growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1353-1383, October.
  8. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2010. "Development Accounting," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 207-23, January.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Arnaud Devleeschauwer & William Easterly & Sergio Kurlat & Romain Wacziarg, 2002. "Fractionalization," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research 1959, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  10. Diego A. Comin & Martí Mestieri, 2010. "An Intensive Exploration of Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 16379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
  12. Jan Fagerberg, 2003. "Innovation: A Guide to the Literature," Working Papers on Innovation Studies, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo 20031012, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
  13. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2006. "World Technology Usage Lags," NBER Working Papers 12677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Spolaore, Enrico & Wacziarg, Romain, 2013. "Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development," CAGE Online Working Paper Series, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) 149, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  2. Spolaore, Enrico & Wacziarg, Romain, 2012. "How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 8998, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Cultural Diversity, Geographical Isolation, and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Working Papers, Brown University, Department of Economics 2011-16, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Campbell, Douglas L. & Pyun, Ju Hyun, 2014. "The Diffusion of Development: Along Genetic or Geographic Lines?," MPRA Paper 57933, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Ideen A. Riahi, 2013. "Colonization and Genetics of Comparative Development," Discussion Papers dp13-11, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, revised 29 Oct 2013.
  6. 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.
  7. Enrico Spolaore, 2012. "The Economics of Political Borders," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0767, Department of Economics, Tufts University.

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