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The Anglo-German productivity puzzle, 1895-1935: a restatement and a possible resolution

  • Albrecht Ritschl

Recent research on international productivity comparisons has focused on the discrepancies between benchmark comparisons and time series extrapolations from other benchmarks. For a 1907 benchmark, Stephen Broadberry and Carsten Burhop (2007) find German manufacturing to be only slightly ahead of Britain. Their backward extrapolation from a broader 1935 benchmark is consistent with their 1907 benchmark, provided that a traditional but disputed industrial production series of Walther Hoffmann (1965) is used. If they instead employ a revised series by Ritschl (2004), they obtain an implausibly high productivity lead of 50 percent, evidence that they therefore discard. The present paper revisits this Anglo-German productivity puzzle and suggests a resolution. Drawing on Rainer Fremdling and Reiner Staeglin (2003), I present further revisions to Germany’s industrial production series. I also calculate a revised 1907 productivity benchmark. Both the revised extrapolation and the revised benchmark indicate that on the eve of World War I, German manufacturing productivity was clearly ahead of Britain.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22309/
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 22309.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22309
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/

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  1. Broadberry S. N. & Ritschl A., 1995. "Real Wages, Productivity, and Unemployment in Britain and Germany during the 1920's," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 327-349, July.
  2. Broadberry, Stephen N., 1993. "Manufacturing and the Convergence Hypothesis: What the Long-Run Data Show," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(04), pages 772-795, December.
  3. Broadberry, Stephen & Burhop, Carsten, 2007. "Comparative Productivity in British and German Manufacturing Before World War II: Reconciling Direct Benchmark Estimates and Time Series Projections," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(02), pages 315-349, June.
  4. Fremdling, Rainer & De Jong, Herman & Timmer, Marcel P., 2007. "British and German Manufacturing Productivity Compared: A New Benchmark for 1935/36 Based on Double Deflated Value Added," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(02), pages 350-378, June.
  5. R. J. Overy, 1975. "Cars, Roads, and Economic Recovery in Germany, 1932–8," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 28(3), pages 466-483, 08.
  6. Broadberry, S N & Fremdling, Rainer, 1990. "Comparative Productivity in British and German Industry 1907-37," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 52(4), pages 403-21, Special I.
  7. Ritschl, Albrecht, 2004. "Spurious growth in German output data, 1913 1938," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(02), pages 201-223, August.
  8. Fremdling Rainer, 2007. "German Industrial Employment 1925,1933,1936 and 1939. A New Benchmark for 1936 and a Note on Hoffmann's Tales," Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook, De Gruyter, vol. 48(2), pages 171-196, December.
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