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Can general purpose technology theory explain economic growth? Electrical power as a case study

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Abstract

Does the concept of General Purpose Technologies help explain periods of faster and slower productivity advance in economies? The paper develops a new comparative data set on the usage of electricity in the manufacturing sectors of the USA, Britain, France, Germany and Japan and proceeds to evaluate the hypothesis of a productivity bonus as postulated by many existing GPT models. Using the case of the diffusion of electrical power in the early twentieth century this paper shows that there was no generalized productivity boost from electrical power diffusion as postulated by many existing GPT models. The productivity gains from this GPT varied widely across economies and industries, suggesting that the power of GPTs to predict aggregate or sectoral growth is limited.

Suggested Citation

  • Cristiano Andrea Ristuccia & Solomos Solomou, "undated". "Can general purpose technology theory explain economic growth? Electrical power as a case study," Working Papers 18, Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cmh:wpaper:18
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    File URL: http://www.econsoc.hist.cam.ac.uk/docs/CWPESHnumber18March2014.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Harvey, A C, 1985. "Trends and Cycles in Macroeconomic Time Series," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(3), pages 216-227, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:tefoso:v:128:y:2018:i:c:p:287-295 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Mario Coccia, 2017. "General purpose technologies in dynamic systems: visual representation and analyses of complex drivers," IRCrES Working Paper 201705, Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth - Moncalieri (TO) ITALY - former Institute for Economic Research on Firms and Growth - Moncalieri (TO) ITALY.
    3. Barry Eichengreen, 2015. "Secular Stagnation: The Long View," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 66-70, May.
    4. Clifford Bekar & Kenneth Carlaw & Richard Lipsey, 2016. "General Purpose Technologies in Theory, Applications and Controversy: A Review," Discussion Papers dp16-15, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    General Purpose Technologies; Economic Growth; Economic History; Productivity; Long Swings;

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N60 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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