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Long-Term Barriers to the International Diffusion of Innovations

In: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011

  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

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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This chapter was published in:
  • Jeffrey Frankel & Christopher Pissarides, 2012. "NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2011," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran11-1, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12486.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12486
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2007. "The Diffusion of Development," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0704, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    2. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2010. "An Exploration of Technology Diffusion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2031-59, December.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Arnaud Devleeschauwer & William Easterly & Sergio Kurlat & Romain Wacziarg, 2003. "Fractionalization," NBER Working Papers 9411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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.
    5. Diego Comin & William Easterly & Erick Gong, 2010. "Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 65-97, July.
    6. Jan Fagerberg, 2003. "Innovation: A Guide to the Literature," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20031012, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    7. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2010. "Development Accounting," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 207-23, January.
    8. Liwa Rachel Ngai, 2000. "Barriers and the Transition to Modern Growth," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1578, Econometric Society.
    9. Robert J. Barro & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1995. "Technological diffusion, convergence and growth," Economics Working Papers 116, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    10. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2006. "World Technology Usage Lags," NBER Working Papers 12677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Diego A. Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2009. "The CHAT Dataset," Harvard Business School Working Papers 10-035, Harvard Business School.
    13. Diego A. Comin & Martí Mestieri, 2010. "An Intensive Exploration of Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 16379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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