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Learning from Experience and Learning from Others: An Exploration of Learning and Spillovers in Wartime Shipbuilding

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  • Rebecca Achee Thornton
  • Peter Thompson

Abstract

A new data set facilitates study of learning spillovers in World War II shipbuilding. Our results contain two principal but contrasting themes. First, learning spillovers were a significant source of productivity growth, and may have contributed more than conventional learning effects. Second, the size of the learning externalities across yards, as measured by Spence's theta, were small. These findings, which are not mutually inconsistent, suggest an optimistic view of learning spillovers: they are a significant source of productivity growth, but the market failures induced by learning externalities may be modest.

Suggested Citation

  • Rebecca Achee Thornton & Peter Thompson, 2001. "Learning from Experience and Learning from Others: An Exploration of Learning and Spillovers in Wartime Shipbuilding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1350-1368, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:91:y:2001:i:5:p:1350-1368
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.91.5.1350
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey I. Bernstein & M. Ishaq Nadiri, 1989. "Research and Development and Intra-industry Spillovers: An Empirical Application of Dynamic Duality," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(2), pages 249-267.
    2. James D. Adams & Adam B. Jaffe, 1996. "Bounding the Effects of R&D: An Investigation Using Matched Establishment-Firm Data," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(4), pages 700-721, Winter.
    3. Bernstein, Jeffrey I, 1989. "The Structure of Canadian Inter-industry R&D Spillovers, and the Rates of Return to R&D," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(3), pages 315-328, March.
    4. Coe, David T & Helpman, Elhanan & Hoffmaister, Alexander W, 1997. "North-South R&D Spillovers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(440), pages 134-149, January.
    5. C. Lanier Benkard, 2000. "Learning and Forgetting: The Dynamics of Aircraft Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1034-1054, September.
    6. Coe, David T. & Helpman, Elhanan, 1995. "International R&D spillovers," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 859-887, May.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • 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

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