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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. 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, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
  2. Harrison, Sharon G. & Weder, Mark, 2006. "Did sunspot forces cause the Great Depression?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1327-1339, October.
  3. Beaudry, Paul & Portier, Franck, 2003. "Stock Prices, News and Economic Fluctuations," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 3844, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Michelle Alexopoulos, 2010. "Read All About it!! What happens following a technology shock?," Working Papers, University of Toronto, Department of Economics tecipa-391, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  5. Alexopoulos, Michelle, 2008. "Extra! Extra! Some positive technology shocks are expansionary!," Economics Letters, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 153-156, December.
  6. Miles S. Kimball & John G. Fernald & Susanto Basu, 2006. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1418-1448, December.
  7. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum, 1989. "Unit roots in real GNP: do we know, and do we care?," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis 18, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, July.
  9. John Shea, 1998. "What Do Technology Shocks Do?," NBER Working Papers 6632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Zvi Griliches, 1990. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 3301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Christopher A. Sims, 1980. "Comparison of Interwar and Postwar Business Cycles: Monetarism Reconsidered," NBER Working Papers 0430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Why Did Productivity Fall So Much during the Great Depression?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 34-38, May.
  14. Alexander J. Field, 2003. "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1399-1413, September.
  15. Jovanovic, Boyan & Rousseau, Peter L., 2005. "General Purpose Technologies," Handbook of Economic Growth, Elsevier, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 18, pages 1181-1224 Elsevier.
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  17. Evsey D. Domar, 1962. "On Total Productivity and All That," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 597.
  18. Burbidge, John & Harrison, Alan, 1985. "An historical decomposition of the great depression to determine the role of money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 45-54, July.
  19. Christina D. Romer, 1988. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 2639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Greasley, David & Madsen, Jakob B. & Oxley, Les, 2001. "Income Uncertainty and Consumer Spending during the Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 225-251, April.
  21. 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, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(291), pages 393-412, 08.
  22. 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, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 317-331, June.
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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. 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, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 23, pages 17-32, Spring.
  2. Fernald, John G., 2014. "Productivity and potential output before, during, and after the Great Recession," Working Paper Series, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 2014-15, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. Jon Cohen & Michelle Alexopoulos, 2009. "Uncertain Times, Uncertain Measures," 2009 Meeting Papers, Society for Economic Dynamics 1211, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Michele Cavallo & Tao Wu, 2006. "Measuring oil-price shocks using market-based information," Working Paper Series, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 2006-28, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Hashmat Khan & John Tsoukalas, 2011. "Effects of Productivity Shocks on Employment: UK Evidence (revised 25 February 2013)," Carleton Economic Papers, Carleton University, Department of Economics 11-05, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 25 Feb 2013.
  6. Alexopoulos, Michelle & Tombe, Trevor, 2012. "Management matters," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 269-285.

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