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Economic stagnation, fixed factors, and policy thresholds

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  • Easterly, William

Abstract

Analysis of decade-long growth rates in all countries shows a striking regularity: episodes of rapid growth are limited largely to a middle range of initial income; neither very poor nor very rich countries experienced rapid growth. Episodes of negative growth are limited to low and middle-income countries. This paper develops a simple model that sheds light on this experience. The model has two familiar elements from the growth literature: (1) a Stone-Gearly utility function (saving is low at low income), and (2) fixed factors with the marginal product of capital bounded away from zero. The second property is derived by assuming an elasticity of substitution greater than one between an exogenous labor input and a broad concept of capital. The paper extends the model to consider multiple capital goods and public capital. It finds that stagnation is consistent with an array of statistical evidence because of fixed factors. Economic policies - not initial conditions - determine whether countries stagnate. Results confirm that initial income and policy variables have a different effect on whether a country stagnates than they do on the rate of growth once it starts growing, as expected from the distinction between steady-state and transitional effects. These results suggest that cross-section growth regressions may be misspecified because of the nonlinearity inherent in the possibility of steady-state stagnation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 795.

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Date of creation: 31 Oct 1991
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:795

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Related research

Keywords: Economic Growth; Economic Theory&Research; Inequality; Achieving Shared Growth; Environmental Economics&Policies;

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References

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  1. Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1990. "Lecture Notes on Economic Growth(I): Introduction to the Literature and Neoclassical Models," NBER Working Papers 3563, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1003-26, October.
  3. Andrews, Donald W K, 1989. "Power in Econometric Applications," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(5), pages 1059-90, September.
  4. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert Tamura, . "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 90-5a, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  5. Heston, Alan & Summers, Robert, 1988. "What We Have Learned about Prices and Quantities from International Comparisons: 1987," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 467-73, May.
  6. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  7. Grier, Kevin B. & Tullock, Gordon, 1989. "An empirical analysis of cross-national economic growth, 1951-1980," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 259-276, September.
  8. Azariadis, Costas & Drazen, Allan, 1990. "Threshold Externalities in Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 501-26, May.
  9. King, R.G. & Rebelo, S., 1988. "Public Policy And Economic Growth: Developing Neoclassical Implications," RCER Working Papers 225, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  10. Barro, Robert J, 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S103-26, October.
  11. Fischer, S., 1991. "Growth, Macroeconomics, and Development," Working papers 580, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo Manuelli, 1990. "A Convex Model of Equilibrium Growth," NBER Working Papers 3241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Stephen L. Parente & Edward C. Prescott, 1991. "Technology Adoption and Growth," NBER Working Papers 3733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Balassa, Bela, 1985. "Exports, policy choices, and economic growth in developing countries after the 1973 oil shock," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 23-35.
  15. Young, Alwyn, 1991. "Learning by Doing and the Dynamic Effects of International Trade," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 369-405, May.
  16. Baumol, William J & Wolff, Edward N, 1988. "Productivity Growth, Convergence, and Welfare: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1155-59, December.
  17. Landau, Daniel, 1986. "Government and Economic Growth in the Less Developed Countries: An Empirical Study for 1960-1980," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 35-75, October.
  18. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1986. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," NBER Working Papers 1793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Boyan Jovanovic & Saul Lach, 1991. "The Diffusion of Technology and Inequality Among Nations," NBER Working Papers 3732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
  21. repec:fth:harver:1532 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Stanley Fischer, 1991. "Growth, Macroeconomics, and Development," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1991, Volume 6, pages 329-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Alwyn Young, 1991. "Learning by Doing and the Dynamic Effects of International Trade," NBER Working Papers 3577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Barro, Robert J & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1992. "Public Finance in Models of Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(4), pages 645-61, October.
  25. Stanley Fischer, 1991. "Growth, Macroeconomics, and Development," NBER Working Papers 3702, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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