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Measuring Our Ignorance, One Book at a Time: New Indicators of Technological Change, 1909-1949

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  • Michelle Alexopoulos
  • Jon Cohen

Abstract

We present new indicators of U.S. technological change for the period 1909-49 based on information in the Library of Congress’ catalogue. We use these indicators to estimate the connections between technological change and economic activity, and to investigate the relationship between fluctuations in innovative activity and the Great Depression. Although we do find links between technological change, output and productivity, our results suggest that the slowdown in technological progress in the early 1930s did not contribute significantly to the Great Depression. On the other hand, the remarkable acceleration in innovations after 1934 did play a role in the recovery.

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File URL: http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/tecipa-349.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number tecipa-349.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: 23 Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-349

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Keywords: Technical Change; Productivity; the Great Depression;

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  1. Susanto Basu & John Fernald & Miles Kimball, 2002. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1986, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Neville Francis & Valerie A. Ramey, 2004. "The Source of Historical Economic Fluctuations: An Analysis using Long-Run Restrictions," NBER Working Papers 10631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Christina D. Romer, 1988. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 2639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Beaudry, Paul & Portier, Franck, 2003. "Stock Prices, News and Economic Fluctuations," IDEI Working Papers 158, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  5. Evsey D. Domar, 1962. "On Total Productivity and All That," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 597.
  6. Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr.
  7. Zvi Griliches, 1990. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 3301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum, 1989. "Unit roots in real GNP: do we know, and do we care?," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 18, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. Peter L. Rousseau & Boyan Jovanovic, 2004. "General Purpose Technologies," 2004 Meeting Papers 103, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Christopher A. Sims, 1980. "Comparison of Interwar and Postwar Business Cycles: Monetarism Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 0430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. John Shea, 1998. "What Do Technology Shocks Do?," NBER Working Papers 6632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
  13. Bresnahan, Timothy F. & Raff, Daniel M. G., 1991. "Intra-Industry Heterogeneity and the Great Depression: The American Motor Vehicles Industry, 1929–1935," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 317-331, June.
  14. Michelle Alexopoulos, 2010. "Read All About it!! What happens following a technology shock?," Working Papers tecipa-391, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  15. David Greasley & Jakob B. Madsen, 2006. "Investment and Uncertainty: Precipitating the Great Depression in the United States," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(291), pages 393-412, 08.
  16. Greasley, David & Madsen, Jakob B. & Oxley, Les, 2001. "Income Uncertainty and Consumer Spending during the Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 225-251, April.
  17. Harrison, Sharon G & Weder, Mark, 2002. "Did Sunspot Forces Cause the Great Depression?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3267, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Burbidge, John & Harrison, Alan, 1985. "An historical decomposition of the great depression to determine the role of money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 45-54, July.
  19. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Alexopoulos, Michelle, 2008. "Extra! Extra! Some positive technology shocks are expansionary!," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 153-156, December.
  21. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1.
  22. Alexander J. Field, 2003. "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1399-1413, September.
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Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Remember: Sticky-Wage Keynesianism is a Supply Side Theory, by Garett Jones
    by ? in Econlog on 2013-03-17 10:00:52
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Cited by:
  1. Michelle Alexopoulos & Trevor Tombe, 2010. "Management Matters," Working Papers tecipa-406, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  2. Tao Wu & Michele Cavallo, 2012. "Measuring Oil-Price Shocks Using Market-Based Information," IMF Working Papers 12/19, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Jon Cohen & Michelle Alexopoulos, 2009. "Uncertain Times, Uncertain Measures," 2009 Meeting Papers 1211, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Hashmat Khan & John Tsoukalas, 2011. "Effects of Productivity Shocks on Employment: UK Evidence (revised 25 February 2013)," Carleton Economic Papers 11-05, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 25 Feb 2013.
  5. Fernald, John G., 2014. "Productivity and potential output before, during, and after the Great Recession," Working Paper Series 2014-15, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  6. Michelle Alexopoulos & Jon Cohen, 2012. "The Effects of Computer Technologies on the Canadian Economy: Evidence from New Direct Measures," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 23, pages 17-32, Spring.

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