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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, June.
  • 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. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
    2. Foster, Andrew D & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1995. "Learning by Doing and Learning from Others: Human Capital and Technical Change in Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1176-1209, December.
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    6. Fafchamps, Marcel & Lund, Susan, 2003. "Risk-sharing networks in rural Philippines," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 261-287, August.
    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. 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.
    9. Maitreesh Ghatak & Massimo Morelli & Tomas Sjoström, 2001. "Credit rationing, wealth inequality, and allocation of talent," ICER Working Papers - Applied Mathematics Series 23-2001, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    10. 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.
    11. Fafchamps, Marcel, 2000. "Ethnicity and credit in African manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 205-235, February.
    12. Gelos, R. Gaston & Werner, Alejandro M., 2002. "Financial liberalization, credit constraints, and collateral: investment in the Mexican manufacturing sector," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 1-27, February.
    13. 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.
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