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Information and communications technology as a general-purpose technology: evidence from U.S industry data

  • Susanto Basu
  • John Fernald

Many people point to information and communications technology (ICT) as the key for understanding the acceleration in productivity in the United States since the mid-1990s. Stories of ICT as a 'general purpose technology' suggest that measured TFP should rise in ICT-using sectors (reflecting either unobserved accumulation of intangible organizational capital, spillovers, or both), but with a long lag. Contemporaneously, however, investments in ICT may be associated with lower TFP as resources are diverted to reorganization and learning. We find that U.S. industry results are consistent with GPT stories: the acceleration after the mid-1990s was broadbased--located primarily in ICT-using industries rather than ICT-producing industries. Furthermore, industry TFP accelerations in the 2000s are positively correlated with (appropriately weighted) industry ICT capital growth in the 1990s. Indeed, as GPT stories would suggest, after controlling for past ICT investment, industry TFP accelerations are negatively correlated with increases in ICT usage in the 2000s.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2006-29.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2006-29
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  1. Nicholas Oulton & Sylaja Srinivasan, 2005. "Productivity Growth and the Role of ICT in the United Kingdom: An Industry View, 1970-2000," CEP Discussion Papers dp0681, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Carol Corrado & Paul Lengermann & Eric J. Bartelsman & J. Joseph Beaulieu, 2007. "Sectoral productivity in the United States: recent developments and the role of IT," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-24, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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