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Malthus to Solow

  • Gary D. Hansen
  • Edward C. Prescott

A unified growth theory is developed that accounts for the roughly constant living standards displayed by world economies prior to 1800 as well as the growing living standards exhibited by modern industrial economies. Our theory also explains the industrial revolution, which is the transition from an era when per capita incomes are stagnant to one with sustained growth. We use a standard growth model with one good and two available technologies. The first, denoted the Malthus technology, requires land, labor, and reproducible capital as inputs. The second, denoted the Solow technology, does not require land. We show that in the early stages of development, only the Malthus technology is used, and, due to population growth, living standards are stagnant despite technological progress. Eventually, technological progress causes the Solow technology to become profitable, and both technologies are employed. In the limit, the economy behaves like a standard Solow growth model.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 257.

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Date of creation: 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:257
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  1. Charles I. Jones, . "Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth Over the Very Long Run," Working Papers 99008, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  2. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert Tamura, 1994. "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 323-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1995. "The Gender Gap, Fertility and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1157, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  5. Stephen L. Parente & Edward C. Prescott, 1997. "Monopoly rights: a barrier to riches," Staff Report 236, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. Karine S. Moe, 1998. "Fertility, Time Use, and Economic Development," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 699-718, July.
  7. Goodfriend, Marvin & McDermott, John, 1995. "Early Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 116-33, March.
  8. repec:oup:restud:v:67:y:2000:i:3:p:545-61 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Arifovic, Jasmina & Bullard, James & Duffy, John, 1997. " The Transition from Stagnation to Growth: An Adaptive Learning Approach," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 185-209, July.
  10. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Evenson, Robert E, 1977. "Fertility, Schooling, and the Economic Contribution of Children in Rural India: An Econometric Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(5), pages 1065-79, July.
  11. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  13. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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