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The World Distribution of Productivity: Country TFP Choice in a Nelson-Phelps Economy

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  • Färnstrand Damsgaard, Erika
  • Krusell, Per

Abstract

This paper builds a theory of the shape of the distribution of total-factor productivity (TFP) across countries. The data on productivity suggests vast differences across countries, and arguably even has \twin peaks". The theory proposed here is consistent with vast differences in long-run productivity, and potentially also with a twin-peaks outcome, even under the assumption that all countries are ex-ante identical. It is based on the hypothesis that TFP improvements in a given country follow a Nelson- Phelps specification. Thus, they derive from past investments in the country itself and, through a spillover (or catch-up) term, from past investments in other countries. We then construct a stochastic dynamic general equilibrium model of the world which has externalities: each country invests in TFP and internalizes the dynamic effects of its own investment, while treating other countries' investments as given. Average world growth is endogenous, as is the distribution of TFP across countries. We find that small idiosyncratic TFP shocks can lead to large long-run differences in TFP levels and that, in the long run, the world distribution of TFP across countries may be asymmetric, i.e., twin-peaked, or bimodal. More specifically, twin-peaked world distributions of TFP arise if the catch-up term in the Nelson-Phelps equation has a sufficiently low weight. If, on the other hand, technological catch-up is important, the world distribution of TFP is unimodal, though it may still have large dispersion.

Suggested Citation

  • Färnstrand Damsgaard, Erika & Krusell, Per, 2010. "The World Distribution of Productivity: Country TFP Choice in a Nelson-Phelps Economy," CEPR Discussion Papers 8022, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8022
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    2. Howitt, Peter & Mayer-Foulkes, David, 2005. "R&D, Implementation, and Stagnation: A Schumpeterian Theory of Convergence Clubs," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(1), pages 147-177, February.
    3. Kremer, Michael & Onatski, Alexei & Stock, James, 2001. "Searching for prosperity," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 275-303, December.
    4. Benhabib, Jess & Spiegel, Mark M., 1994. "The role of human capital in economic development evidence from aggregate cross-country data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 143-173, October.
    5. Peter Klenow & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 1997. "The Neoclassical Revival in Growth Economics: Has It Gone Too Far?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 73-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Paul Beaudry & Fabrice Collard & David Green, 2005. "Demographics and recent productivity performance: insights from cross-country comparisons," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(2), pages 309-344, May.
    7. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jess Benhabib & Jesse Perla & Christopher Tonetti, 2014. "Catch-up and fall-back through innovation and imitation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 1-35, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    growth; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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