Technology Regimes and Productivity Growth in Europe and the United States: A Comparative and Historical Perspective
Over the past decade much has been published on the contribution of information and communication technology (ICT) to economic growth. In an attempt to find parallel historical evidence, several scholars have attempted to review the contribution of other general purpose technologies (notably steam and electricity) to output and productivity growth. Most of these contributions have had a national focus on the United States and for a limited number of European countries (for example, Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom). In this paper we review the evidence from these individual studies from an international comparative perspective. This should help us to better understand how general purpose technologies (steam, electricity and ICT) have contributed to differentials in productivity growth between European countries and the United States. In addition to the evidence from the macroeconomic perspective we also focus on the diffusion of technologies by industry, for which we exploit information on technology adoption and productivity growth by industry and their contributions to the aggregate. We conclude that in terms of the speed of diffusion, the ICT era is comparable to the electricity age, i.e., a relatively rapid diffusion across the economy. But the impact of ICT on productivity growth is, at least for the time being, less pervasive than for electricity. The diffusion is strongest in market services, but European countries generally seem to have fallen behind the U.S.. The paper speculates that non-technological factors may have interacted more intensively with technology use during the ICT era than during the electricity and steam ages.
|Date of creation:||01 Oct 2005|
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