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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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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. Romer, Christina D, 1990. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 597-624, August.
  2. Harrison, Sharon G. & Weder, Mark, 2006. "Did sunspot forces cause the Great Depression?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1327-1339, October.
  3. Susanto Basu & John Fernald & Miles Kimball, 2002. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1986, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. 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.
  5. Michelle Alexopoulos, 2011. "Read All about It!! What Happens Following a Technology Shock?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1144-79, June.
  6. Paul Beaudry & Franck Portier, 2006. "Stock Prices, News, and Economic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1293-1307, September.
  7. Peter L. Rousseau & Boyan Jovanovic, 2004. "General Purpose Technologies," 2004 Meeting Papers 103, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Staff Report 285, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1990. "Unit roots in real GNP: Do we know, and do we care?," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 7-61, January.
  12. Evsey D. Domar, 1962. "On Total Productivity and All That," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 597.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 287-343 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Comparison of Interwar and Postwar Business Cycles: Monetarism Reconsidered," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(2), pages 250-57, May.
  17. Alexopoulos, Michelle, 2008. "Extra! Extra! Some positive technology shocks are expansionary!," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 153-156, December.
  18. John Shea, 1999. "What Do Technology Shocks Do?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1998, volume 13, pages 275-322 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, October.
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Blog mentions

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  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. Alexopoulos, Michelle & Tombe, Trevor, 2012. "Management matters," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 269-285.
  2. John Fernald, 2014. "Productivity and Potential Output Before, During, and After the Great Recession," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2014, Volume 29 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Tao Wu & Michele Cavallo, 2012. "Measuring Oil-Price Shocks Using Market-Based Information," IMF Working Papers 12/19, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Michelle Alexopoulos & Jon Cohen, 2009. "Uncertain Times, uncertain measures," Working Papers tecipa-352, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  5. 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.
  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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