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Growth Theory through the Lens of Development Economics

In: Handbook of Economic Growth

  • Banerjee, Abhijit V.
  • Duflo, Esther

Growth theory has traditionally assumed the existence of an aggregate production function, whose existence and properties are closely tied to the assumption of optimal resource allocation within each economy. We show extensive evidence, culled from the micro-development literature, demonstrating that the assumption of optimal resource allocation fails radically. The key fact is the enormous heterogeneity of rates of return to the same factor within a single economy, a heterogeneity that dwarfs the cross-country heterogeneity in the economy-wide average return. Prima facie, we argue, this evidence poses problems for old and new growth theories alike. We then review the literature on various causes of this misallocation. We go on to calibrate a simple model which explicitly introduces the possibility of misallocation into an otherwise standard growth model. We show that, in order to match the data, it is enough to have misallocated factors: there also needs to be important fixed costs in production. We conclude by outlining the contour of a possible non-aggregate growth theory, and review the existing attempts to take such a model to the data.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), 2005. "Handbook of Economic Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of Economic Growth with number 1-07.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:grochp:1-07
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/bookseriesdescription.cws_home/BS_HE/description

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    1. Maitreesh Ghatak & Massimo Morelli & Tomas Sjostrom, 2002. "Credit Rationing, Wealth Inequality, and Allocation of Talent," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 441, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    2. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 2013. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Working Papers 2013-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
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    6. Fafchamps, Marcel, 2000. "Ethnicity and credit in African manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 205-235, February.
    7. Steven Fazzari & R. Glenn Hubbard & Bruce C. Petersen, 1987. "Financing Constraints and Corporate Investment," NBER Working Papers 2387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Fafchamps, Marcel & Lund, Susan, 2003. "Risk-sharing networks in rural Philippines," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 261-287, August.
    9. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
    10. Paul Gertler & Jonathan Gruber, 1998. "Insuring Consumption Against Illness," JCPR Working Papers 41, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    11. Ghatak, Maitreesh & Morelli, Massimo & Sjostrom, Tomas, 2001. "Occupational Choice and Dynamic Incentives," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(4), pages 781-810, October.
    12. Boyan Jovanovic & Jeremy Greenwood, 1999. "The Information-Technology Revolution and the Stock Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 116-122, May.
    13. Mark Rosenzweig & Andrew D. Foster, . "Learning by Doing and Learning from Others: Human Capital and Technical Change in Agriculture," Home Pages _068, University of Pennsylvania.
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