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Frictionless Technology Diffusion: The Case of Tractors

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  • Rodolfo E. Manuelli
  • Ananth Seshadri

Abstract

Many new technologies display long adoption lags, and this is often interpreted as evidence of frictions inconsistent with the standard neoclassical model. We study the diffusion of the tractor in American agriculture between 1910 and 1960-a well-known case of slow diffusion-and show that the speed of adoption was consistent with the predictions of a simple neoclassical growth model. The reason for the slow rate of diffusion was that tractor quality kept improving over this period and, more importantly, that only when wages increased did it become relatively unprofitable to operate the alternative, labor-intensive, horse technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ananth Seshadri, 2014. "Frictionless Technology Diffusion: The Case of Tractors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(4), pages 1368-1391, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:104:y:2014:i:4:p:1368-91
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.4.1368
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
    • N51 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N52 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N71 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N72 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices

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