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The Sources of Growth in a Technologically Progressive Economy: The United States, 1899–1941

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  • Gerben Bakker
  • Nicholas Crafts
  • Pieter Woltjer

Abstract

We develop new aggregate total factor productivity (TFP) growth estimates for the USA between 1899 and 1941, and sectoral estimates at the most disaggregated level so far, 38 industries. We include hard-to-measure services, and a refined measure of sectoral labour quality growth. The resulting data set supersedes Kendrick (1961), showing TFP growth lower than previously thought, broadly based across industries, and strongly variant intertemporally. The four ‘great inventions’ that Gordon (2016) highlighted were important but less dominant in TFP growth than their predecessors in the British industrial revolution. The findings also make it unlikely the 1930s had the twentieth century's highest TFP growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Gerben Bakker & Nicholas Crafts & Pieter Woltjer, 2019. "The Sources of Growth in a Technologically Progressive Economy: The United States, 1899–1941," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 129(622), pages 2267-2294.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:econjl:v:129:y:2019:i:622:p:2267-2294.
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert J. Gordon, 2016. "The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10544, December.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
    3. repec:hrv:faseco:30703979 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Thomas Philippon, 2015. "Has the US Finance Industry Become Less Efficient? On the Theory and Measurement of Financial Intermediation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1408-1438, April.
    5. Simon Kuznets & Lillian Epstein & Elizabeth Jenks, 1946. "National Income and Its Composition, 1919-1938, Volume II," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn41-3, January.
    6. Bakker, Gerben, 2012. "How Motion Pictures Industrialized Entertainment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(4), pages 1036-1063, December.
    7. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Introduction to "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing"," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing, pages 3-14, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Zvi Griliches, 1963. "The Sources of Measured Productivity Growth: United States Agriculture, 1940-60," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 71, pages 331-331.
    9. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Appendices and Index, "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing"," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing, pages 465-664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Moses Abramovitz, 1964. "Evidences of Long Swings in Aggregate Construction Since the Civil War," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra64-1, January.
    11. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, January.
    12. Jacob Martin Gould, 1946. "Output and Productivity in the Electric and Gas Utilities, 1899-1942," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number goul46-1, January.
    13. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1999. "The Returns to Skill in the United States across the Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 7126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    15. 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.
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    17. Willford Isbell King, 1930. "The National Income and Its Purchasing Power," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number king30-1, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Crafts, Nicholas, 2019. "The Sources of British Economic Growth since the Industrial Revolution : Not the Same Old Story," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1216, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O51 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - U.S.; Canada

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