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Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations

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  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

Abstract

We document an empirical relationship between the cross-country adoption of technologies and the degree of long-term historical relatedness between human populations. Historical relatedness is measured using genetic distance, a measure of the time since two populations' last common ancestors. We find that the measure of human relatedness that is relevant to explain international technology diffusion is genetic distance relative to the world technological frontier ("relative frontier distance"). This evidence is consistent with long-term historical relatedness acting as a barrier to technology adoption: societies that are more distant from the technological frontier tend to face higher imitation costs. The results can help explain current differences in total factor productivity and income per capita across countries.
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Suggested Citation

  • Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2012. "Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations," NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages 11-46.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:intsma:doi:10.1086/663612
    DOI: 10.1086/663612
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    1. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2009. "The Diffusion of Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 469-529.
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    Cited by:

    1. Enrico Spolaore, 2016. "The economics of political borders," Chapters, in: Eugene Kontorovich & Francesco Parisi (ed.), Economic Analysis of International Law, chapter 1, pages 11-43, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Oded Galor & Quamrul Ashraf, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Working Papers 2007-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    3. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2015. "Ancestry, Language and Culture," NBER Working Papers 21242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Tiago Neves Sequeira & Marcelo Santos, 2019. "Technology in 1500 and genetic diversity," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 56(4), pages 1145-1165, April.
    5. Harutyunyan, Ani & Özak, Ömer, 2017. "Culture, diffusion, and economic development: The problem of observational equivalence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 94-100.
    6. Spolaore, Enrico & Wacziarg, Romain, 2014. "Long-Term Barriers to Economic Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 3, pages 121-176, Elsevier.
    7. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2013. "How Deep Are the Roots of Economic Development?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(2), pages 325-369, June.
    8. Jason Collins & Boris Baer & Ernst Juerg Weber, 2016. "Evolutionary Biology in Economics: A Review," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 92(297), pages 291-312, June.
    9. Ani Harutyunyan & Omer Ozak, 2016. "Culture, diffusion, and economic development," Working Papers of LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance 551450, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB), LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance.
    10. Douglas L. Campbell & Ju Hyun Pyun, 2017. "The Diffusion of Development: Along Genetic or Geographic Lines?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(2), pages 198-210, March.
    11. Jürgen Janger & Agnes Kügler & Andreas Reinstaller & Fabian Unterlass, 2017. "Austria 2025 – Looking Out For the Frontier(s): Towards a New Framework For Frontier Measurement in Science, Technology and Innovation," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 59289, February.
    12. Riccardo Turati, 2021. "Do you want to migrate to the United States? Migration intentions and Cultural Traits in Latin America," Working Papers wpdea2101, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.
    13. Xu, Chen & Xiong, Yan & Sun, Yuanxin & Liu, Yipeng, 2021. "Genetic distance, international experience and the performance of cross-border R&D for EMNEs," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 27(2).
    14. Sequeira, Tiago & Santos, Marcelo & Ferreira-Lopes, Alexandra, 2013. "Why Inventions Occurred in Some Countries and Not in Others?," MPRA Paper 51553, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Krieger, Tim & Renner, Laura & Ruhose, Jens, 2018. "Long-term relatedness between countries and international migrant selection," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 35-54.
    16. Riccardo Turati, 2020. "Network-based Connectedness and the Diffusion of Cultural Traits," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2020012, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    17. Erkan Goeren, 2017. "The Role of Novelty-Seeking Traits in Contemporary Knowledge Creation," Working Papers V-402-17, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2017.
    18. Docquier, Frédéric & Tansel, Aysit & Turati, Riccardo, 2017. "Do emigrants self-select along cultural traits? Evidence from the MENA countries," MPRA Paper 82778, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Ideen A. Riahi, 2013. "Colonization and Genetics of Comparative Development," Discussion Papers dp13-11, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, revised 29 Oct 2013.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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