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The World Distribution of Productivity: Country TFP Choice in a Nelson-Phelps Economy

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  • Per Krusell

    (IIES)

  • Erika Färnstrand Damsgaard

    (IFN)

Abstract

This paper builds a theory of the shape of the distribution of total-factor productiv- ity (TFP) across countries. The data on productivity suggests vast differences across countries, and arguably even has "twin peaks". The theory proposed here is consistent with vast differences in long-run productivity, and potentially also with a twin-peaks outcome, even under the assumption that all countries are ex-ante identical. It is based on the hypothesis that TFP improvements in a given country follow a Nelson-Phelps specification. Thus, they derive from past investments in the country itself and, through a spillover (or catch-up) term, from past investments in other countries. We then construct a stochastic dynamic general equilibrium model of the world which has externalities: each country invests in TFP and internalizes the dynamic effects of its own investment, while treating other countries' investments as given. Average world growth is endogenous, as is the distribution of TFP across countries. We find that small idiosyncratic TFP shocks can lead to large long-run differences in TFP levels and that, in the long run, the world distribution of TFP across countries may be asymmetric, i.e., twin-peaked, or bimodal. More specifically, twin-peaked world distributions of TFP arise if the catch-up term in the Nelson-Phelps equation has a sufficiently low weight. If, on the other hand, technological catch-up is important, the world distribution of TFP is unimodal, though it may still have large dispersion.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 379.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:379

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  1. Michael Kremer & Alexei Onatski & James Stock, 2001. "Searching for Prosperity," NBER Working Papers 8250, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Peter Howitt & David Mayer-Foulkes, 2002. "R&D, Implementation and Stagnation: A Schumpeterian Theory of Convergence Clubs," NBER Working Papers 9104, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Benhabib, Jess & Spiegel, Mark M., 1994. "The role of human capital in economic development evidence from aggregate cross-country data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 143-173, October.
  4. Paul Beaudry & Fabrice Collard & David Green, 2005. "Demographics and recent productivity performance: insights from cross-country comparisons," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(2), pages 309-344, May.
  5. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
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Cited by:
  1. Jess Benhabib & Jesse Perla & Christopher Tonetti, 2014. "Catch-up and fall-back through innovation and imitation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 1-35, March.

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