IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Technological Breakthroughs and Productivity Growth

  • Henrekson, Magnus


    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics)

  • Edquist, Harald



This study consists of an examination of productivity growth following three major technological breakthroughs: the steam power revolution, electrification and the ICT revolution. The distinction between sectors producing and sectors using the new technology is emphasized. A major finding for all breakthroughs is that there is a long lag from the time of the original invention until a substantial increase in the rate of productivity growth can be observed. There is also strong evidence of rapid price decreases for steam engines, electricity, electric motors and ICT products. However, there is no persuasive direct evidence that the steam engine producing industry and electric machinery had particularly high productivity growth rates. For the ICT revolution the highest productivity growth rates are found in the ICT-producing industries. We suggest that one explanation could be that hedonic price indexes are not used for the steam engine and the electric motor. Still, it is likely that the rate of technological development has been much more rapid during the ICT revolution compared to any of the previous breakthroughs.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 665.

in new window

Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: 03 May 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Research in Economic History, 2006, pages 1-53.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0665
Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46 8 665 4500
Fax: +46 8 665 4599
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Jeremy Greenwood, 1999. "The Third Industrial Revolution," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q II, pages 2-12.
  2. Rosenberg, N. & Trajtenberg, M., 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the late 19th Century US," Papers 2001-27, Tel Aviv.
  3. Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 347-372, June.
  4. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, 2005. "Early Twentieth Century Productivity Growth Dynamics: An Inquiry into the Economic History of “Our Ignorance”," Macroeconomics 0502023, EconWPA.
  5. Broadberry,Steve N., 1997. "The Productivity Race," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521584401.
  6. Brent Goldfarb, 2005. "Diffusion of general-purpose technologies: understanding patterns in the electrification of US Manufacturing 1880--1930," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(5), pages 745-773, October.
  7. David, Paul A, 1990. "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 355-61, May.
  8. Dorothy S. Brady, 1966. "Output, Employment, and Productivity in the United States after 1800," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number brad66-1, December.
  9. Kevin J. Stiroh & Dale W. Jorgenson, 1999. "Information Technology and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 109-115, May.
  10. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2000. "The resurgence of growth in the late 1990s: is information technology the story?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  11. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late 19th Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 3008, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Carolina Castaldi & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Technological Revolutions and Economic Growth: The “Age of Steam” Reconsidered," LEM Papers Series 2004/11, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  13. Stefano Scarpetta & Andrea Bassanini & Dirk Pilat & Paul Schreyer, 2000. "Economic Growth in the OECD Area: Recent Trends at the Aggregate and Sectoral Level," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 248, OECD Publishing.
  14. David, P.A., 1989. "Computer And Dynamo: The Modern Productivity Paradox In A Not-Too Distant Mirror," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 339, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  15. Crafts, Nicholas, 2004. "Productivity Growth in the Industrial Revolution: A New Growth Accounting Perspective," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(02), pages 521-535, June.
  16. John W. Kanefsky, 1979. "Motive Power in British Industry and the Accuracy of the 1870 Factory Return," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 32(3), pages 360-375, 08.
  17. Alan Greenspan, 1999. "The American economy in a world context," Proceedings 637, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  18. Dale W. Jorgenson & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2000. "Raising the Speed Limit: US Economic Growth in the Information Age," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 261, OECD Publishing.
  19. William D. Nordhaus, 2001. "Productivity Growth and the New Economy," NBER Working Papers 8096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Paul A. David, 2005. "Productivity growth prospects and the new economy in historical perspective," Economic History 0502005, EconWPA.
  21. Burhop, Carsten & Wolff, Guntram B., 2005. "A Compromise Estimate of German Net National Product, 1851 1913, and its Implications for Growth and Business Cycles," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(03), pages 613-657, September.
  22. Robert J. Gordon, 2000. "Does the "New Economy" Measure Up to the Great Inventions of the Past?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 49-74, Fall.
  23. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-37, May.
  24. Thomas Anderson, 2001. "Changing Patterns and Determinants of Growth," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 2(3), pages 23-28, October.
  25. Sch N, Lennart, 2000. "Electricity, technological change and productivity in Swedish industry, 1890 1990," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(02), pages 175-194, August.
  26. Boyan Jovanovic & Peter L. Rousseau, 2005. "General Purpose Technologies," NBER Working Papers 11093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Nicholas Crafts, 2004. "Steam as a general purpose technology: A growth accounting perspective," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 338-351, 04.
  28. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Manuel Trajtenberg, 1992. "General Purpose Technologies "Engines of Growth?"," NBER Working Papers 4148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  30. Helpman, Elhanan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 1994. "A Time to Sow and a Time to Reap: Growth Based on General Purpose Technologies," CEPR Discussion Papers 1080, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  31. repec:oup:qjecon:v:101:y:1986:i:1:p:185-95 is not listed on IDEAS
  32. Kevin J. Stiroh, 2002. "Information Technology and the U.S. Productivity Revival: What Do the Industry Data Say?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1559-1576, December.
  33. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2004. "A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 61-99, March.
  34. Edquist, Harald, 2005. "Do hedonic price indexes change history? The case of electrification," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 586, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 28 Feb 2005.
  35. Edquist, Harald, 2004. "The Swedish ICT miracle: myth or reality?," GGDC Research Memorandum 200472, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
  36. Dirk Pilat & Frank C. Lee, 2001. "Productivity Growth in ICT-producing and ICT-using Industries: A Source of Growth Differentials in the OECD?," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2001/4, OECD Publishing.
  37. Bart van Ark & Robert Inklaar & Robert H. McGuckin, 2002. "'Changing Gear' - Productivity, ICT and Services Industries: Europe and the United States," Economics Program Working Papers 02-02, The Conference Board, Economics Program.
  38. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, 2005. "General Purpose Technologies and Productivity Surges: Historical Reflections on the Future of the ICT Revolution," Economic History 0502002, EconWPA.
  39. Boskin, Michael J, et al, 1997. "The CPI Commission: Findings and Recommendations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 78-83, May.
  40. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Weiss, Thomas, 1980. "The Regional Diffusion and Adoption of the Steam Engine in American Manufacturing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(02), pages 281-308, June.
  41. Charles R. Hulten, 2001. "Total Factor Productivity: A Short Biography," NBER Chapters, in: New Developments in Productivity Analysis, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  42. Alexander J. Field, 2003. "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1399-1413, September.
  43. Harberger, Arnold C, 1998. "A Vision of the Growth Process," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 1-32, March.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0665. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Elisabeth Gustafsson)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.