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Measuring the Social Return to R&D


  • Charles I. Jones
  • John C. Williams


Is there too much or too little research and development (R&D)? In this paper we bridge the gap between the recent growth literature and the empirical productivity literature. We derive in a growth model the relationship between the social rate of return to R&D and the coefficient estimates of the empirical literature and show that these estimates represent a lower bound. Furthermore, our analytic framework provides a direct mapping from the rate of return to the degree of underinvestment in research. Conservative estimates suggest that optimal R&D investment is at least two to four times actual investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles I. Jones & John C. Williams, 1998. "Measuring the Social Return to R&D," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1119-1135.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:113:y:1998:i:4:p:1119-1135.

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    References listed on IDEAS

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