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Distance to the Technological Frontier and Economic Development

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Author Info

  • Ömer Özak

    ()
    (Southern Methodist University)

Abstract

This research proposes that the geographical distance from the location of the pre-industrial technological frontier has a non-monotonic and persistent effect on development. While remoteness from this frontier diminished imitation, it fostered the emergence of a culture conducive to innovation and knowledge creation, which has persisted into the modern era even after barriers to movement dissipated. I construct a novel measure of geographical distance in the pre-industrial era, which measures the travel time along the optimal route between any two locations. Using this measure I show that the distance to the technological frontier in the past has a robust and persistent U-shaped relation with measures of economic development both in the pre-industrial and modern eras. Furthermore, a distance of 6 weeks of travel, which is roughly the distance from Ethiopia to the UK, is the least desirable distance from the technological frontier in the pre-industrial era as it generates the largest adverse effects on contemporary development.

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File URL: ftp://ftp1.economics.smu.edu/WorkingPapers/2012/OZAK/OZAK-2012-01.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 1201.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:smu:ecowpa:1201

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Department of Economics, P.O. Box 750496, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275-0496
Phone: 214-768-2715
Fax: 214-768-1821
Web page: http://www.smu.edu/economics

Related research

Keywords: Economic growth; comparative development; culture and technology; technological innovation; technological diffusion; globalization; geographical distance; technological imitation;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Alan Fernihough & Kevin Hjorstshøj O’Rourke, 2014. "Coal and the European Industrial Revolution," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _124, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

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