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US economic growth in the gilded age

  • Field, Alexander J.

In the immediate postwar period, Moses Abramovitz and Robert Solow both examined data on output and input growth from the first half of the 20th century and reached similar conclusions. In the 20th century, in contrast with the nineteenth, a much smaller fraction of real output growth could be swept back to the growth of inputs conventionally measured. The rise of the residual, they suggested, was an important distinguishing feature of 20th century growth. This paper identifies two difficulties with this claim. First, TFP growth virtually disappeared in the US between 1973 and 1995. Second, TFP growth was in fact quite robust between the end of the Civil War and 1906, as was in fact acknowledged by Abramovitz in his 1993 Economic History Association Presidential address. Developing a revised macroeconomic narrative is essential in reconciling our interpretation of these numbers with what we know about scientific, technological, and organizational change during the gilded age.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 173-190

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:31:y:2009:i:1:p:173-190
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622617

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  1. Ruttan, Vernon W., 2006. "Is War Necessary for Economic Growth?: Military Procurement and Technology Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195188042, March.
  2. Field, Alexander J., 1987. "Modern Business Enterprise as a Capital-Saving Innovation," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(02), pages 473-485, June.
  3. Field, Alexander J., 2006. "Technological Change and U.S. Productivity Growth in the Interwar Years," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(01), pages 203-236, March.
  4. Phillip Arestis & Michelle Baddeley & John S.L. McCombie (ed.), 2007. "Economic Growth," Books, Edward Elgar, number 3958, Autumn.
  5. B. Zorina Khan & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2001. "The Early Development of Intellectual Property Institutions in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 233-246, Summer.
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  7. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number tost57-1, June.
  8. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "Appendices and Index," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870, pages 177-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Alexander J. Field, 2007. "The origins of US total factor productivity growth in the golden age," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 1(1), pages 63-90, April.
  10. Field, Alexander J., 2007. "The equipment hypothesis and US economic growth," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 43-58, January.
  11. David, Paul A & Wright, Gavin, 1997. "Increasing Returns and the Genesis of American Resource Abundance," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 203-45, March.
  12. 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.
  13. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 347-372, June.
  14. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "Sources and Methods," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870, pages 39-45 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Robert J. Gordon, 1999. "U.S. Economic Growth since 1870: One Big Wave?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 123-128, May.
  16. Moses Abramovitz, 1956. "Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra56-1, June.
  17. Moses Abramovitz, 1956. "Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870," NBER Chapters, in: Resource and Output Trends in the United States Since 1870, pages 1-23 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, June.
  19. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  20. Field, Alexander James, 1992. "The Magnetic Telegraph, Price and Quantity Data, and the New Management of Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 401-413, June.
  21. Abramovitz, Moses & David, Paul A, 1973. "Reinterpreting Economic Growth: Parables and Realities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 428-39, May.
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