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Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations

In: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011

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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, 2011. "Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011, pages 11-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12486
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alesina, Alberto & Devleeschauwer, Arnaud & Easterly, William & Kurlat, Sergio & Wacziarg, Romain, 2003. "Fractionalization," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 155-194, June.
    2. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2009. "The Diffusion of Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 469-529.
    3. Barro, Robert J & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1997. "Technological Diffusion, Convergence, and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 1-26, March.
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    6. Ngai, L. Rachel, 2004. "Barriers and the transition to modern growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1353-1383, October.
    7. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
    8. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2010. "An Exploration of Technology Diffusion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2031-2059, December.
    9. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2006. "World Technology Usage Lags," NBER Working Papers 12677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2010. "Development Accounting," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 207-223, January.
    11. Diego A. Comin & Martí Mestieri, 2010. "An Intensive Exploration of Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 16379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Parente, Stephen L & Prescott, Edward C, 1994. "Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(2), pages 298-321, April.
    13. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2009. "The CHAT Dataset," Harvard Business School Working Papers 10-035, Harvard Business School.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Enrico Spolaore, 2012. "The Economics of Political Borders," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0767, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    2. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," CEPR Discussion Papers 6444, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2015. "Ancestry, Language and Culture," NBER Working Papers 21242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Frédéric Docquier & Aysit Tansel & Riccardo Turati, 2017. "Do Emigrants Self-Select Along Cultural Traits? Evidence from the MENA Countries," CESifo Working Paper Series 6777, CESifo Group Munich.
    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: 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. 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.
    10. Ani Harutyunyan & Omer Ozak, 2016. "Culture, Diffusion, and Economic Development," LICOS Discussion Papers 38216, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Ideen A. Riahi, 2013. "Colonization and Genetics of Comparative Development," Discussion Papers dp13-11, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, revised 29 Oct 2013.

    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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