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The Intensive Margin of Technology Adoption


  • Diego A. Comin

    () (Harvard Business School, Business, Government and the International Economy Unit)

  • Marti Mestieri

    () (MIT Department of Economics)


We present a tractable model for analyzing the relationship between economic growth and the intensive and extensive margins of technology adoption. The "extensive" margin refers to the timing of a country's adoption of a new technology; the "intensive" margin refers to how many units are adopted (for a given size economy). At the aggregate level, our model is isomorphic to a neoclassical growth model, while at the microeconomic level it features adoption of firms at the extensive and the intensive margin. Based on a data set of 15 technologies and 166 countries our estimations of the model yield four main findings: (i) there are large cross-country differences in the intensive margin of adoption; (ii) differences in the intensive margin vary substantially across technologies; (iii) the cross-country dispersion of adoption lags has declined over time while the cross-country dispersion in the intensive margin has not; (iv) the cross- country variation in the intensive margin of adoption accounts for more than 40% of the variation in income per capita.

Suggested Citation

  • Diego A. Comin & Marti Mestieri, 2010. "The Intensive Margin of Technology Adoption," Harvard Business School Working Papers 11-026, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:11-026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Francesco Caselli & Wilbur John Coleman, 2001. "Cross-Country Technology Diffusion: The Case of Computers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 328-335, May.
    2. Susanto Basu & David N. Weil, 1998. "Appropriate Technology and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1025-1054.
    3. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2006. "Five Facts You Need to Know About Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 11928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
    5. Diego Comin & Mark Gertler, 2006. "Medium-Term Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 523-551, June.
    6. Comin, D. & Hobijn, B., 2004. "Cross-country technology adoption: making the theories face the facts," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 39-83, January.
    7. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn, 2010. "An Exploration of Technology Diffusion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2031-2059, December.
    8. Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ananth Seshadri, 2003. "Frictionless technology diffusion: the case of tractors," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    9. Clark, Gregory, 1987. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? Lessons from the Cotton Mills," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(01), pages 141-173, March.
    10. Basu, Susanto & Fernald, John G, 1997. "Returns to Scale in U.S. Production: Estimates and Implications," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 249-283, April.
    11. Maddison, Angus, 2007. "Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199227204.
    12. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2008. "A new approach to measuring technology with an application to the shape of the diffusion curves," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 187-207, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maloney, William F. & Valencia, Felipe Caicedo, 2014. "Engineers, Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas," IZA Discussion Papers 8271, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Dutz, Mark A., 2013. "Resource reallocation and innovation : converting enterprise risks into opportunities," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6534, The World Bank.
    3. Grant Miller & A. Mushfiq Mobarak, 2013. "Gender Differences in Preferences, Intra-Household Externalities, and Low Demand for Improved Cookstoves," NBER Working Papers 18964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Stephane Ciriani & Marc Lebourges, 2016. "The role of market power in economic growth: an analysis of the differences between EU and US competition policy theory, practice and outcomes," European Journal of Government and Economics, Europa Grande, vol. 5(1), pages 5-28, June.
    5. William F. Maloney & Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 2017. "Engineering Growth: Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas," CESifo Working Paper Series 6339, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item


    Economic Growth; Technology Adoption; Cross-country studies.;

    JEL classification:

    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models

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